While veterans who are members of a public retirement system have always had the opportunity to buy back up to three years of service performed in the military during a period of conflict and credit it to their New York State retirement, up until now the cost has been prohibitive.
Thanks to new legislation introduced by the Committee on Rules in the Assembly and sponsored by Assemblymen Michael Cohen of Forest Hills and Ronald Tocci of Westchester County, the cost of the buy backs has been made more affordable for all veterans.
Last week that legislation was signed into law by Governor George Pataki.
“I am extremely pleased to have sponsored this bill which demonstrates our deep commitment to aiding our veterans,” Assemblyman Cohen said after the signing.
“I encourage all eligible veterans to take advantage of this program,” he added.
Cohen explained that the original legislation was made into law in 1998.
The buy back policy only applies to those who served during conflict at certain designated times and had already worked at least five years in a public retirement system in the state.
Public retirement systems included in the buy back provisions are those who work for the state, county and local government including New York City employees who are teachers, firefighters, police officers and correction officers.
Service during World War II, Korean, Vietnam or the Persian Gulf wars or participation in the Lebanon, Grenada or Panama conflicts were eligible under the law if they were honorably discharged from service.
But, unlike the new law, the 1998 law required veterans to pay the entire cost of the credit.
Now those veterans who are eligible will only be required to buy back their service credit based on three percent of their current annual salary for each of the years of military service up to a maximum of three years.
Additionally, veterans who have already purchased service credit under the 1998 law on or after December 21, 1998 will be entitled to receive a refund of the difference of what they paid and what the new law requires.
Members who purchase or purchased such military service are generally entitled to count such service for benefit accrual purposes service, but not for the purpose of qualifying for benefits.
Assemblyman Cohen noted that those wishing further information on this provision should contact their retirement benefits administrator or his office at 263-5595.