The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 3, 2012

Judge to hear dispute over disability benefits, Joplin Police and Firemen’s Pension Fund

—  A Jasper County judge said Monday he will study arguments before ruling on a dispute involving the way disability benefits are computed for the Joplin Police and Firemen’s Pension Fund.

Attorneys on the two sides agreed that there are no facts in dispute. Instead it is interpretation of the rules of the plan and it’s supporting documents that has created the disagreement.

Disabled firefighter Tom Robertson filed the lawsuit last June after he had asked the board to overrule the city’s calculation on disability pay and his attorney had met with the board asking for reconsideration.

 The attorney representing Robertson, Dan Tobben of the Danna McKitrick firm in St. Louis, contends that Robertson should be entitled to half the average pay he earned when he worked. He was accepted for disability in January 2011 because of a lung condition caused by exposure to smoke at a fire. Robertson had worked for the city 15 years and 11 months. The pension for Robertson allows retirement at 20 years. His benefit was reduced by the number of years he was short for retirement and was figured at 37.5 percent of his average pay rather than 50 percent.

Robertson expected about $1,900 a month, but after the reduction, he is scheduled to receive $1,400, he said at a  pension board meeting last April. Robertson is a former member of the pension board and served at a time when board members were trying to get the city to increase the funding level of the plan.

City officials contend that the benefits calculation is governed by provisions in the plan that were voted on by the membership in 1993 and 1999.

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