“In 2007, the state Supreme Court dramatically lowered the standards required to collect a tax-free, accidental disability pension,” Pennacchio said. “In fact, since the decision the increase of accidental disability pensions issued is more than 35 percent. In order to stem these abuses of the system allowed by the court I will reintroduce legislation, originally proposed by Governor Christie last year as part of his original pension reform proposal, on Monday. Many aspects of the reforms will affect all of the state pension systems.”
The changes in the bill include: an increase from 4 to 10 years the service credit required before a member of state pension systems becomes available for an ordinary disability pension, and a restriction of disability awards to members who sustained injuries during regular and assigned duties. Disability awards for willful negligence would be eliminated.
“It is vitally important that the accidental disability system for police officers and fire fighters be protected,” Pennacchio said. “Allowing the current, lowered standards to continue reduces the amount of funds available for public safety workers legitimately injured in the line of duty. I believe, as the governor does, that these reforms will restore balance and fairness to the accidental disability pension system.”
Pennacchio said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex) have signaled their willingness to tackle this matter.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle during the (December) lame duck session of the Legislature to adopt these reforms,” Pennacchio said. “This reform must be adopted immediately; we cannot wait for a new session of the Legislature to consider it.”
—TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM