Ramsey County District Court File No. C6009074.
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Willis, Judge.
Under Minn. Stat. § 352.115, subd. 9 (2004), and Minn. Stat. § 352.95, subd. 5 (2004), a correctional employee who chose to receive disability benefits authorized by Minn. Stat. § 352.95, subd. 1 (2004), may not, upon reaching age 55, elect to revoke the disability benefits and begin receiving a retirement annuity under Minn. Stat. § 352.93, subd. 1 (2004).
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Peterson, Judge
After sustaining a work-related injury, appellant Dale Ruter began receiving disability benefits from the Minnesota State Retirement System Correctional Employees' Retirement Fund and the Teachers' Retirement Association, among others. After reaching age 55, appellant sought to have his disability benefits converted to an ordinary retirement annuity. On appeal from a summary judgment after remand, appellant argues that (1) the district court erred in concluding that he did not have a right to forego his disability benefits; and (2) he is entitled to state-paid medical insurance under his union's contract with the Minnesota Department of Corrections. We affirm.
In 1989, appellant began working as a vocational-masonry teacher at the Minnesota correctional facility in St. Cloud. On June 21, 1990, appellant sustained a work-related injury. Although appellant initially missed little time from work, his back problems caused by the injury progressively worsened, disabling him from September 1994 to February 1995.
Due to the injury, appellant received benefits from multiple sources, including workers' compensation benefits from the Minnesota Department of Employee Relations (DOER). In addition to workers' compensation benefits, appellant sought benefits from ITT Hartford Insurance Company, which provides public employees with disability benefits under a state-sponsored supplemental insurance program. As a condition to receiving benefits under the private disability policy, Hartford required appellant to apply for both Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS) and Teachers Retirement Association (TRA) disability benefits.
In February 1996, appellant was awarded MSRS disability benefits as a covered correctional employee pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 352.95. The DOER offset appellant's workers' compensation benefits by the amount of his MSRS disability benefits pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 176.021, subd. 7 (2004). As a result of the offset, appellant no longer received workers' compensation payments.
Appellant challenged the offset as violating the equal protection clauses of the Minnesota and United States Constitutions. Ruter v. Minn. Dep't of Corrections, 569 N.W.2d 407, 408 (Minn. 1997) (Ruter I). The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the offset, holding that the offset prevented duplication of benefits. Id.
After reaching age 55 in December, 1997, appellant sought to have his disability benefits converted to an ordinary retirement annuity. Minnesota law provides:
After separation from state service, an employee covered under section 352.91 who has reached age 55 years and has credit for at least three years of covered correctional service and regular Minnesota State Retirement System service is entitled upon application to a retirement annuity ...