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Wright v. Board of Trs., State Univs. Retirement Sys. of Illinois

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

May 22, 2014

CHERYL WRIGHT, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES, STATE UNIVERSITIES RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF ILLINOIS, Defendant-Appellee

Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County. No. 12MR546. Honorable Thomas J. Difanis, Judge Presiding.

SYLLABUS

Where the State Universities Retirement System determined that plaintiff received disability benefits from the retirement system and a workers' compensation award for the same disability covering the same period of time, the retirement system was entitled to offset the total amount of the workers' compensation award, regardless of the actual date that the workers' compensation award was paid.

Gene A. Turk, Jr. (argued), of Law Office of Gene Turk, of Carbondale, for appellant.

John M. Sturmanis, of Thomas, Mamer & Haughey, LLP, and Michael B. Weinstein (argued), Special Assistant Attorney General, of State Universities Retirement System, both of Champaign, for appellee.

JUSTICE POPE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Holder White and Steigmann concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

POPE JUSTICE.

Page 847

[¶1] In July 2007, plaintiff, Cheryl Wright, was awarded disability benefits by the State Universities Retirement System of Illinois (SURS) retroactive to December 23, 2006, based on a July 2006 disability date. In March 2011, SURS staff notified Wright by letter she owed $51,413.62 (after SURS withheld her February 2011 disability payment of $1,687.96) based on a workers' compensation award she received. Wright sought administrative review.

[¶2] In February 2012, the Claims Panel of SURS issued a written opinion upholding the SURS staff's determination. In June 2012, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of SURS (Executive Committee) issued a final administrative decision adopting the Claims Panel's determination in its entirety. In July 2013, the circuit court affirmed the decision of the Executive Committee.

[¶3] Wright appeals, asserting her workers' compensation award was not paid until January 11, 2011 (180 days after its July 15, 2010, approval), and, thus, the offset should apply only to SURS benefits received after that date, resulting in a $2,185.25 offset.

[¶4] I. BACKGROUND

[¶5] In January 2007, Wright filed an application for disability benefits with SURS as the result of an on-the-job accident, noting a disability date of July 2006. In July 2007, SURS notified Wright by letter she would begin receiving $1,791.93-per-month disability benefits retroactive to December 23, 2006. The letter contained the following notice:

" If you qualify for benefits under any State or Federal Workers' Compensation or Occupational Diseases Acts for any period for which disability benefits are payable by SURS, the disability benefit paid by SURS will be reduced by an amount equivalent to such ...

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