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McKenzie v. Board of Trustees of the Public Employees' Retirement System

December 26, 2006

ROBERT C. MCKENZIE, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM, RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Board of Trustees of the Public Employees' Retirement System, Docket No. 2-10-204586.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stern, P.J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Argued November 9, 2006

Before Judges Stern, A. A. Rodríguez*fn1 and Collester.

Robert McKenzie appeals from a final administrative determination of the Board of Trustees of the Public Employees' Retirement System ("PERS"), entered on September 27, 2005, which denied his request for leave to retire from PERS with "Veteran retirement benefits." On this appeal, McKenzie challenges that portion of the determination which concluded that he had to be actively employed in government service at the time of retirement in order to obtain the veterans' benefits. He contends that:

[a]n interpretation of N.J.S.A. [43:15A-61] that allow[s] for the exclusion of veterans who have otherwise attained the age of 60 and 20 years of aggregate service, from receiving the increased benefit allowance under the statute [because they were not in service at the time of retirement], denies those veterans[] due process and equal protection under the laws.

We reject these contentions and affirm the final administrative determination.

The material facts are not in dispute. As a result, we incorporate, for purposes of this opinion, the Statement of Facts embodied in appellant's brief:

Robert McKenzie was enrolled in the Public Employees' Retirement System ("PERS") as a result of his employment with the Newark Public Schools on January 1, 1991.

On March 24, 2003, Mr. McKenzie filed an application for a deferred retirement. The "PERS" Board approved Robert McKenzie's Deferral Retirement on March 16, 2005, with an effective date of May 1, 2005, which was the first of the month following his sixtieth birthday. Mr. McKenzie [had] separated from service with the Newark Public School System on January 19, 2001 [effective January 31, 2001].

On July 12, 2002, Robert McKenzie provided an application to the Division of Pension and Benefits to purchase service credit [for "various periods of military, out-of-state and federal government service rendered prior to his enrollment in the PERS"]. On November 8, 2002, Mr. McKenzie requested an extension to purchase [the] service credit. The extension was approved on March 24, 2005, which was one month before his sixtieth birthday. Mr. McKenzie appeared at the Division of Pensions and Benefits and was advised by a counselor in client services that he did not meet the requirements for a Veteran's Retirement. On April 25, 2005, David Pointer, Chief of the Retirement Bureau, informed Mr. McKenzie that at the time he terminated employment, he did not meet the age and service requirements to be eligible for a Veteran's retirement status.

The parties agreed at argument before us that the novel question involved on this appeal is whether an employee who is granted a deferred retirement (because he performed the requisite service or could purchase prior service credits before reaching retirement age) can receive veterans' benefits.

N.J.S.A. 43:15A-61 provides a "rule of 80" based on an aggregate of age and service. Appellant would have had sufficient service credits to satisfy the twenty-year service requirement upon purchase of the ...


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