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Monday, April 4, 2022

Court Interprets Pension Code Provision on Survivor Benefits

An Illinois appellate court recently interpreted a provision in the Pension Code regarding the timing of receipt of surviving spouse benefits. Thornley v. Board of Trustees of River Forest Police Pension Fund.

A police offer retired in 2015, and then passed away three years later. His spouse applied for surviving benefits under the Pension Code. The Pension Board granted the application, but determined that the spouse was not entitled to benefits immediately because the deceased officer, had he lived, would not have been entitled to benefits until he reached age 60 (he was a deferred pensioner). The spouse sued, claiming that the statutory language stated that she was entitled to benefits "upon his death." The Pension Board argued that the surviving spouse benefits would commence on the date on which the officer would have been entitled to benefits under the Pension Code, which was when he turned 60 years old. Both the trial court and the appellate court agreed with the Pension Board, finding that she was entitled to the same benefits the officer would have been entitled to had he lived. In this case, pension benefits would commence when the officer would have turned 60 years old, and not immeidately upon his death.


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