We recently had the opportunity to assist a young lady who had been receiving retirement benefits under the Fairfax County Supplemental Retirement System for over 16 years for an injury she received in 1983. Suddenly, her checks were cut in half and she was given no explanation for this change. Certainly her physical condition had not changed. The Retirement Board’s own records conceded that she remained disabled.
The Retirement Board relied on a law change that had occurred recently. That change permitted the Board, under certain circumstances, to curtail benefits—even though there had been no change in the claimant’s condition.
Is the Board allowed to rely on a law change to alter benefits under these circumstances?
The clear answer is that they cannot. We pointed out to the Board that once benefits began the claimant’s rights became vested and constitutionally protected. The law can change—and this can effect a future claimant’s rights—but the government cannot change the law to affect rights that are already in existence.
Once we pointed this out to the County—and appeared at a hearing to defend our position—they reinstated benefits.
If you have a question about insurance or retirement benefits, please call us.