Police Pension Boards Do Not Have Authority to Issue Annual Cost-of-Living Increase to Surviving Spouse of Disabled Officer

The Illinois Supreme Court has decided that Police Pension Boards do not have the authority to award annual pension increases to surviving spouses of officers receiving line of duty disability benefits. The decision of the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court decision which reversed a Pension Board decision granting a 3% cost-of-living increase to the surviving spouse of a disabled officer. After the Circuit Court reversed the decision of the Pension Board, the Pension Board sought an appeal arguing that the Illinois Pension Code was ambiguous and the Board’s interpretation of the Code should be given deference. The Illinois Appellate Court disagreed with the Board’s legal interpretations of the Code as it applied to surviving spouses. According to the Court, the Board’s legal interpretation was in derogation of the express language of the Pension Code, and furthermore, the Board failed to give deference to an advisory opinion of the Illinois Department of Insurance.

The Appellate Court concluded that the Pension Code as it applied to surviving spouses benefits was clear and unambiguous. The Supreme Court ultimately agreed with the Appellate Court and held that a Police Pension Board has no statutory authority to award cost-of-living increases to a surviving spouse disability pension benefit.

Roselle Police Pension Board v. Village of Roselle, Illinois Supreme Court (232 Ill.2d 546, March 19, 2009).

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