Governor Andrew Cuomo on May 31 signed into law a bill that enables public school teachers and other public employees who are honorably discharged veterans and have five years in their civilian jobs to purchase up to three years of service credit toward their pensions.
For the first time, female public employees who are veterans will have the opportunity to purchase service credit.
“Many of our members have served their country and continue to give back in the classroom,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “It’s only fitting that they have a chance to benefit from a provision that was denied them for so long.”
Previously, the pension credit was only available to veterans who served in certain conflicts, including World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War, and who had been actively engaged in combat. Many women who served in noncombat roles were, therefore, not eligible.
Eligible members in Tiers 1 through 4 of the pension system will be required to pay 3 percent of their most recent salary per year of additional service credit; Tier 6 members would pay 6 percent of their most recent salary per year. Veterans would need three years of military duty to purchase three years of pension credit.
“Our veterans take on the enormous risk of injury or even death when they enlist in the military,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin of Scarsdale, who wrote and introduced the bill. “This bill offers service members an incentive to stay here in New York State and continue to make meaningful contributions to our communities.”
New York State’s pension system was one of only six state pension systems to limit service credit based on dates or combat service. The bill to expand eligibility was passed by the state Legislature twice before, but both times the governor had vetoed it.
"I must have taken 12 trips up to Albany to lobby on this issue," said John Garvey, the chair of the UFT Veterans Committee and a teacher at Long Island City HS. "The old rules were arcane. This legislation is a thank you for stepping up and doing the job. It was the moral thing to do."
The legislation appropriates $24.8 million to cover the cost of the newly covered veterans.
UFT members who are veterans are advised to contact the UFT Pension Department to discuss the costs as well as the benefits of purchasing service credit.