A firefighter applied for a non-duty disability with his current fire pension fund but was denied because he was not eligible for a pension as he had only been with his current department for a year. He also filed a separate application with his former fire pension fund, which also denied his claim because he was no longer eligible for a pension since he was no longer an employee of the department and had voluntarily left to take a job with another fire department.
The firefighter then sued claiming he was entitled to a pension because he should be allowed to combine his creditable service from his current and former employment for pension eligibility under section 4-109.3 of the Pension Code.
The court disagreed, finding that section only applies to a firefighter who begins employment with a new employer as a result of an IGA that eliminates the previous employer’s fire department but does not apply to a firefighter who voluntarily left one job to start another one. The court also noted that the Pension Code makes it clear that only the last pension fund is responsible for a non-duty disability pension, and only if the firefighter has at least 7 years of creditable service with that last pension fund. The court also noted that had the legislature wanted to allow the type of “stacking” of creditable service proposed by the firefighter for non-duty disabilities, it would have included language to that effect but it did not. As a result, the court upheld the denial of a non-duty disability pension by his former employer’s pension fund board. Wessel v. Wilmette Firefighters’ Pension Fund