State, unions agree on more lenient disability pension standard

Mark Pazniokas ::

Dan Livingston, left, chief state employee union negotiator, and Sal Luciano, executive director of Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

A new agreement that restores a more lenient standard for awarding state disability pensions will take effect immediately and will not be presented to the General Assembly for consideration in 2016, Governor Dannel P’s administration confirmed on Thursday. . Malloy.

The agreement, signed by the governor’s chief labor negotiator and ratified by state employee unions on Thursday, is seen as a “clarification” of existing union-management practice, and legislative approval no. is not required, both sides said.

This, however, goes against the recommendation of the state’s public auditors, John C. Geragosian and Robert M. Ward.

Auditors, who first informed Malloy in June of a “crash” in the disability pension system that could have cost the state millions of dollars in inappropriate payments, recommended lawmakers rewrite the statutes pensions.

And Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo said Thursday his office will prepare for the deal’s immediate implementation, pending its own review of the matter.

“We have essentially returned to an informal settlement that the parties have followed for almost 30 years,” Hartford attorney Daniel Livingston, chief negotiator for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, said Thursday.

The SEBAC leadership, which includes representatives from the 15 state employee unions – which, in turn, cover 34 bargaining units – agreed by unanimous consensus Thursday morning to ratify the deal, Livingston said.

“We are happy to have been able to work with SEBAC and come to an agreement on this,” said Gian-Carl Casa, spokesperson for the National Bureau of Policy and Management.

The Labor Relations Office, an office of the OPM, negotiated the protocol with SEBAC.

Livingston and Casa said the agreement – a memorandum of understanding on how the state will administer statutory disability pension benefits – is a “clarification” of that process. And because the parties do not consider it to be a new contract or an amendment to the contract, it will not be submitted to the legislator for action.

In a June 17 special report to the governor, auditors detailed an issue that was also highlighted in a lawsuit filed a month later by state whistleblower Virginia Brown, a former lawyer in the Services Division. pension from the controller’s office.

According to state law, an employee is disabled for up to 24 months if he is unable to perform the duties for which he was hired due to working conditions. Thereafter, the employee can only continue his disability pension if certain other conditions are met. In particular, this employee must not be able to perform another “appropriate or comparable” public function.

The auditors and Brown say that at times workers were allowed to keep a disability award as long as their injury prevented them from returning to their original jobs.

But the head of one of the state’s largest employee unions said the standard was sometimes applied too tightly and unfairly.

Salvatore Luciano, executive director of Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the state attempted to place police officers and guards in prison, injured as a result of physical attacks and sometimes suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, in manual work. jobs that did not recognize the severity of their injuries.

Lembo, who started as a comptroller in 2011, also concluded that the State Employees Retirement Commission was applying the “appropriate and comparable” standard in a way that was too lenient and inconsistent with state law.

After undertaking his own examination, Lembo asked the State Medical Examination Board to employ a stricter standard at meetings in September and October 2013.

State Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo


State Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo

But after a significant increase in disability pension denials, Lembo suspended all medical examinations for 24 months and urged the administration and unions to negotiate a joint agreement on how the legal standard should be interpreted.

Livingston said those who received disability benefits and were not given the 24-month review during the suspension period will now receive reviews according to the standard set out in the memorandum.

“I am certainly happy that they came to an agreement,” Lembo said of the agreement ratified on Thursday.

The controller declined to comment on the details of the agreement other than saying, “We are reviewing the language.”

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