Attorney General: Mr. John R. Shears, State Teachers' Retirement Board, 1991-004 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

February 11, 1991

Mr. John R. Shears
Administrator
State Teachers' Retirement Board
165 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Mr. Shears:

By letter dated November 27, 1990 you have asked two questions raised as a result of a request of a member of the State Teachers' Retirement System who has not received any retirement benefit payments since his retirement in 1986. The first question concerns whether retirement benefits can be paid to the member retroactively to 1986 pursuant to a payment plan which he selected in June, 1990, which differs from a payment plan which he previously had on file with the Board in 1986. The second question is whether the Board may pay interest at a reasonable rate from the time each payment was due until the date payment is made. We conclude for the reasons stated below that payment may not be made retroactively to 1986 pursuant to the payment plan selected in 1990 and that interest may not be paid.

Your letter of request plus subsequent information provided by your office indicates the following facts. The member was born in 1929 and has twenty-seven consecutive years of credited service as a public school teacher in Connecticut. He provided the Board in early 1986 with medical evidence of good health. As a result, the Board notified him that his election of the coparticipant benefit option had become effective as of April 11, 1986. He was told in his May 19, 1986 letter of notice that in the event of his death his wife as his designated coparticipant would be entitled to receive for life the whole amount of his reduced retirement allowance. This was consistent with the April 8, 1986 form that he executed in which he acknowledged that this designation in so providing for his wife in the event of his death after his retirement "would provide [him] with a reduced retirement allowance during [his] lifetime."

On July 14, 1986 he filed an application for a disability allowance with the Board. The member resigned from his teaching position effective August 1, 1986. The Board in the context of this application had on file the members' complete formal application for retirement as defined in Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-183b(16). The disability allowance was denied by the Board.

The member recently inquired about receiving a service retirement benefit. In conjunction with this inquiry, in June 1990, he filed another payment plan selection with the Board contrary to the coparticipant option which after his death would only provide a refund of member contributions. This would result in payments to him approximately twenty per cent higher than under the coparticipant option. He seeks these higher benefits retroactively to 1986 with interest on the payments.

The Board has determined that the member is eligible for benefits retroactive to 1986 under the early retirement provision of Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-183f(c). However, it was determined that benefits are payable from 1986 only in the coparticipant option form that the member had elected that year.

Several statutory and regulatory provisions address the issue of a member's ability to change payment plans. Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-183f(c) provides in relevant part that a member is eligible to receive an early retirement benefit if he has "accumulated twenty-five years of credited service at lest twenty years of which are service in the public schools of Connecticut the last five of which are consecutive...." 2 Reg. Conn. Agencies, T.R.B., 10-1831-16(a)(4)(B) (1984) specifies that

[t]he election of a coparticipant option will become effective...(b) on the date of the filing of the election form, required coparticipant identification, and medical evidence found by the Board to be sufficient to establish that the member is in good health; provided that no coparticipant election shall become effective earlier than the date the member first becomes eligible to retire and begin receiving a retirement allowance under the normal, early, deferred-vested, or proratable retirement forms.

2 Reg. Conn. Agencies, T.R.B., 10-1831-16(d)(2) (1984) states that "[a] coparticipant option may be neither amended nor revoked once the member has retired."

The law as applied to the facts shows that the Board's determination of the effective date of the member's election of the coparticipant option as being April 11, 19896, was correct. The member by that time had submitted the material required by 10-1831-16 (a)(4)(B) of the regulations. His age and experience were such that by then he also had become eligible to retire and to receive an early retirement allowance pursuant to Conn. Gen. STat. 10-183f(c).

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL


Thadd A. Gnocchi
Assistant Attorney General

RB/TAG/jcb


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