Subject: City of Memphis Disabilty Pension Audits
This message will give you a brief update on the status of the City's Disability Audit process, and the steps that your union representatives are taking in response.
The City hired Memphis Consulting Group to conduct an audit of former City employees who retired with either Ordinary or Line-of-Duty Disability benefits. The consultant sent out Disability Audit packages to retirees that instructed the retirees to provide financial and medical information by a certain date, or risk losing their benefits. Since many of the retirees receiving these packages are represented by either the Memphis Police Association, Memphis Fire Fighters Association or Operating Engineers Local 369, these labor organizations are working together to respond to the audit.
These unions filed a lawsuit in Chancery Court on Friday, February 1, 2013, seeking an injunction to stay the disability audit process, and the court set a hearing for an injunction on Thursday, February 14. On Monday, February 3, attorneys for the unions met with the chancellor and attorneys for the City to discuss the case. In the course of those discussions, and in the subsequent exchange of correspondence, the parties reached a tentative understanding on certain important issues. The lawsuit is still pending, and the parties still need to work out certain issues, but based on this mutual understanding, the injunction hearing is no longer appropriate.
The issues on which the parties reached a tentative understanding are as follows:
Our office sent letters with instructions and guides on how to respond to the City audit to all those retirees who contacted us. It is our recommendation that you continue to follow those guides for the moment. The City has indicated that the Pension Board would be "clarifying" the audit requirements, and we will be working to protect the interests of City retirees during that process. Once the outstanding issues are resolved, we will provide further updates. In the meantime, follow the instructions we previously provided.
- No retiree’s disability benefits (whether ordinary or line of duty) will be affected without a specific decision by the Pension Board to take such action; and any such action will only take effect after the participant’s rights to a contested case hearing have been exhausted or waived. In other words, you are entitled to notice and due process hearings before any benefits will be affected. Your benefits will not simply stop, even if the Pension Board decides to take any action at all.
- Retirees receiving ordinary disability benefits only need to provide financial information related to their gainful employment or occupation. The audit does not require such participants to provide any other type of financial information, including but not limited to information related to capital gains, income earned by a spouse, or income from other passive or investment-type activities (irrelevant information may be redacted from whatever forms are provided).
- If retirees are unable, through no fault of their own, to obtain any medical opinion from their personal physician, they may state the reason for that inability on the Disability Audit Response Form; and that inability will not be a refusal to cooperate with the audit, or grounds to discontinue or otherwise adversely affect their benefits. Legitimate reasons include, but are not limited to 1) Inability to afford an appointment or examination; 2) Refusal of insurance carrier to pay for an appointment or examination; 3) Health care provider unwilling or unable to render an opinion due to death, retirement or other grounds; 4) Destruction of relevant medical records by health care provider; 5) Inability to obtain an appointment and get an opinion by the deadline set by the audit letter; or 6) Inability to visit a doctor due to infirmity.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office.
Attorney at Law
LAURENZI & BLOOMFIELD, P.C.
P.O. Box 3290
50 North Front Street, Suite 800
Memphis, Tennessee 38173-0290