Joplin fire and police pension board weighs disability insurance - KOAM TV 7

Joplin fire and police pension board considers disability insurance & debates partial years

 The Joplin Police and Fire Pension Board is weighing the idea of disability insurance after a court ruling in favor of an injured firefighter.
     The board is also facing another issue, whether to pay benefits for partial years served.
  That  topic sparked a debate at a recent meeting.


Jennifer Higley the daughter of a retired and deceased firefighter who served twenty-one years and nine months read from the policy at a recent meeting, "Under the definition of credited service,   it says fractional years." 

 Before firefighter Higley passed away,  he questioned his pension payout. His daughter appealed to the pension board saying  it should include not just his twenty-one years but also  those nine months served in his benefit percentage  but it doesn't. 

She says, "It's not about the money.  I don't care about the money that, we, its about respect for the firemen. 

Family members believe firefighters should credit for everyday they put their lives on the line and  not just what is deemed a year of credited service.

City attorney and legal counsel for the pension board, Brian Head said to pension board members, " This is absolutely clear each year of credited service,  how else would you say it was any clearer please. If you intended for it to be fractional it would include those words in it."

Tensions flared over the definition of credited service.  Plan administrator Leslie Haase says partial years have never been paid. 
New pension board member Adam Grimes says he was just hoping to give Higley's concerns a   fair discussion. He agreed the language in the policy appears confusing saying, "If you substitute the words  for credited 
 service into portions where it says credited service and you use that definition,  it clearly talks about fractional years of service.  I understand her perspective." 

 The pension board is currently appealing a court ruling in the case of  disabled firefighter, Tom Robertson,  who served 15 years 11 months before his lung injury.  The city plan pays him benefits  for just 15 years. The court ruled he should get a full 50 percent of 20 years service even though it was cut short. 
That's prompted the pension board to seek a vote of members to allow it to buy disability insurance. But if the courts takes up the issue of his 11 months, it could impact Higley and others. 
Head says, "That would have to be calculated,  and then back pay and then future pay. It could be significant."

Meaning more money for a pension plan Head says is only about 56 percent funded right now
An actuary summary giving  cost estimates and benefits concerning disability insurance has been posted at the city hall for police and firefighters to review. Then a vote of police and firefighters  will be taken on wether or not to give the pension board purchasing power.

Click here to see valuation report. 


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