SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS
515 N.E.2d 1240, 118 Ill. 2d 436, 113 Ill. Dec. 933 1987.IL.1692
Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Robert L. Sklodowski, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE SIMON delivered the opinion of the court.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE SIMON
The application of plaintiff, Lawrence Herhold, for disability benefits requires us to interpret and apply that portion of the Illinois Pension Code that provides for pensions for firemen (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 108 1/2, par. 6-101 et seq.).
From February 1977 until December 1985, Herhold was employed by the City of Chicago as a fire department paramedic. He was a contributor to the Municipal Employees', Officers' and Officials' Annuity and Benefit Fund (Municipal Fund) until July 1, 1983, when the fire department paramedics were accepted en masse by the city's Firemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund (Firemen's Fund). Their acceptance into the Firemen's Fund was in anticipation of the effective date of a statutory amendment to the definition of "fireman" in the Pension Code. The amendment became effective on September 24, 1983, and added fire department paramedics to the definition of fireman, thus making paramedics eligible for membership in the Firemen's Fund. The statute as amended defines a "fireman" as any person who:
Seventeen months after commencing contribution to the Firemen's Fund, Herhold suffered an illness unrelated to his job that disabled him, and he applied for ordinary disability benefits under section 6 -- 152 of the Pension Code. The retirement board of the Firemen's Fund (the Board) awarded Herhold benefits based on the period of time he contributed to the Firemen's Fund. Herhold claimed that he was entitled to disability benefits computed on the basis of the entire time he was employed as a paramedic, including the time before he began contributing to the Firemen's Fund as well as the time since July 1, 1983, when he commenced to contribute.
Herhold sought administrative review of the Board's decision in the circuit court of Cook County. The circuit court denied the Board's motion for summary judgment and allowed Herhold's. It ruled as a matter of law that his benefits should be based on the entire time he served as a paramedic. The appellate court affirmed that decision (156 Ill. App. 3d 454), and we allowed the Board's petition for leave to appeal (107 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)).
The issue we are called upon to resolve is whether the statute, as amended by adding "fire paramedic" to the definition of "fireman," now provides that the entire time a paramedic has been employed in that capacity be recognized in determining his status in the Firemen's Fund for the purpose of disability benefits or only the time after the paramedic commenced making contributions.
Two other provisions of the Pension Code, in addition to the amendment to the definition of "fireman" referred to above, are relevant to the determination we are called upon to make. Section 6 -- 152, which is the provision on which Herhold's claim is founded, reads:
"Any fireman who is not eligible for minimum annuity, who becomes disabled after the effective date as the result of any cause other than the performance of an act or acts of duty, shall have a right to receive ordinary disability benefit during any period or periods of such disability, after the first 30 days of disability. Payment of such benefits shall not exceed, in the aggregate, throughout the entire service of the fireman, a period equal to 1/2 of the total service rendered by him prior to the time he became disabled, but not to exceed 5 years." (Emphasis added.) Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 108 1/2, par. 6-152.
Section 6 -- 209, which sets forth the method for computing service of a member of the Firemen's Fund for purposes of his pension rights, provides:
"In computing the service rendered by a fireman on and after the effective date, the following periods shall be counted in addition to all periods during which he performed the duties of his position, as periods of service for annuity purposes only: All periods of (a) vacation, (b) leave of absence with whole or part pay, (c) leave of absence during which he was engaged in the military or naval service of the United States of America, (d) disability for which he receives any disability benefit, (e) disability for which he receives [either] whole or part pay, and (f) leave of absence, or other authorized relief from [the] ...