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Tackett wins partial victory in National Guard service credit fight

By Phil Kabler, Staff writer

Retired state adjutant general Allen Tackett won a partial victory Wednesday in his efforts to extend military service credits to retired state and public school employees who served in the state National Guard.

On Wednesday, the state Consolidated Public Retirement Board approved a decision that partially approves an appeal Tackett, the longtime leader of the state’s National Guard, made regarding his service credits.

Hearing officer Jack DeBolt noted that Tackett’s appeal of his own benefits is intended to set a precedent to extend benefits to other state and public school retirees with National Guard service.

The appeal ruling concludes that time spent on active duty status or on training missions with the National Guard counts as military service in terms of determining military service credits, while serving on weekend drills does not.

The decision also concludes that National Guard members qualify for a month of military service credit for any month that they have 10 or more days on active duty. DeBolt said a legislative rule adopted in 2013 requiring 15 or more days a month contradicts state retirement laws.

The board’s ruling Wednesday coincides with a March state Supreme Court decision that said the retirement board had wrongly denied military service credit to many public employees by failing to give credit for service during armed conflicts not specifically cited in state law, including conflicts in El Salvador, Lebanon, Grenada, the Persian Gulf War and Somalia.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Tackett said the 10 days of service per month requirement still penalizes retirees who served in the National Guard.

“I have 48 years’ service in the Guard, and that qualifies me for one year of service credit,” he said.

Tackett said he would like to see the Legislature pass a bill to give National Guard members three years of military service credit for 20 years of service in the Guard, four years credit for 25 years of service, and the maximum five years of credit for 30 or more years of service.

He said that would not only reward National Guard members for their service to the state, but would create an incentive for members to stay in the Guard.

Under state retirement law, public employees can receive up to five years service credit for active duty military service during armed conflicts. That is used to calculate pension benefits in which each year of service equals two percent of the retiree’s highest average salary, so the maximum five years of military service credit increases a retiree’s pension by 10 percent.

Also Wednesday, CPRB Executive Director Jeffrey Fleck said the board sent out more than 15,000 letters to retirees with military service on July 14, advising they may qualify for new or additional military service credit under the Supreme Court decision.

He said the CPRB had received about 700 responses as of Wednesday.

“We’re going through them to determine how many qualify for additional or new military service credits,” Fleck said.

In July, CPRB actuary Harry Mandel said the Supreme Court decision will increase future pension benefits for active employees in the Public Employees Retirement System by $113.9 million, while current PERS retirees will qualify for an additional $43.6 million of pension benefits.

Mandel said the retirement board will need to increase employer premiums for PERS by about $23 million a year for the next 20 years to cover the costs of the increased pension benefits.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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