If you have been employed or know someone that is employed with the State of Alaska, then you have probably heard about the “Tier” retirement systems. There are currently 4 Tiers:
Tier I 1/1/1961 – 6/30/1986
Tier II Entered after 6/30/1986
Tier III Entered after 6/30/1996
Tier IV Entered after 6/30/2006
Now this article is discussing what you need to know if you are injured on the job resulting in your inability to return to work. In this example, you are a Fireman, Trooper, Police Officer, Deputy Fire Marshal, Court Services Officer, etc.
So you respond to an emergency, like every hero before you. You find yourself in a life or death situation and ultimately suffer an injury that prohibits you from returning to work in your public safety profession. You go through the processes with the State of Alaska’s Department of Retirement and Benefits, applying for your retirement benefits now that you have become disabled:
If you are Tier I, II, or III: receive 40% of your highest 3 years of pay, plus 10% COLA (cost of living allowance), and medical coverage until you reach 20 years of service time or retirement eligibility age (whichever comes first). At this point you are converted to your Tier Retirement Plan and receive those benefits.
If you are Tier IV: receive 40% of your highest 3 years of pay until you reach 20 years of service time or retirement eligibility age (whichever comes first). At this time converted to your Tier Retirement Plan. You will notice some key differences/absences of benefits, i.e. NO COLA / NO MEDICAL COVERAGE. Now here is the real stinger…this injury occurred at the beginning of your career. You have only accumulated a couple of thousand dollars in your 401K model retirement account. At the 20 years or retirement age, you are converted to your Tier IV retirement…which means disbursements from this 401K model account that you have not contributed to since your date of injury and worker’s compensation eligibility. You are now living on whatever was in that account with no medical benefits. If you need benefits for you and your qualified dependents, which you undoubtedly will, you will need to apply for social assistance/Medicaid, etc.
Not exactly the reward a hero should receive for selfless/noble service to others. So what can you do now? Leave the State of Alaska for another employer that offers defined benefits? Or perhaps fight for better benefits by holding lawmakers to task with your vote!
If you or a family member currently find yourself in this situation, perhaps retaining a competent and knowledgeable attorney is the more responsible and effective thing to do.
The choice is ultimately yours. Feel free to contact us at www.aegisofalaska.com for more tips and information, or referral to a licensed legal professional.
Thank you for your service! If you are a family member, friend or acquaintance, thank you for supporting those that serve with honor and commitment.