AGO 1952 No. 274 - Mar 27 1952
STATUS OF DISABLED STATE PATROLMEN.
Compulsory retirement provisions of chapter 250, Laws of 1947, applies to members in active service and not to non-active [[nonactive]]members. A disabled patrolman continues to receive his compensation under the provisions of chapter 215, Laws of 1943, as long as the disability exists.
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March 27, 1952
Honorable James A. Pryde
Chief Washington State Patrol
Olympia, Washington Cite as: AGO 51-53 No. 274
Receipt is hereby acknowledged of your letter of March 19, 1952, in which you propose the following two questions:
"1. Should a disabled officer who is receiving disability benefits continue to receive such benefits after he reaches the age of sixty, or should he be retired under the provisions of Section 14, Chapter 250, Laws of 1947?
"2. If your answer is that he should continue to receive disability benefits under Chapter 174, Laws of 1947, would he then be eligible to retire under Section 14, Chapter 250, Laws of 1947, should the disability cease sometime after he reaches the age of sixty years?"
Our conclusion may be stated as follows:
A disabled officer who is receiving disability benefits continues to receive such benefits after he reaches the age of sixty and he is not subject to the retirement provisions of chapter 250, Laws of 1947.
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
Chapter 250, Laws of 1947 is the Washington State Patrol Retirement System and all retirement is effectuated by reason of the provisions of this chapter and is applicable to all officers on the force at the time they reach the age set out in section 14. Those officers who become permanently or totally disabled as a direct and proximate result of injury received in the course of employment receive benefits under the provisions of chapter 215, Laws of 1943 (See section 18, chapter 250, Laws of 1947). There is nothing in this chapter which changes the status of a disabled person for the purpose of pension other than his restoration to full time employment; in other words, whenever the disability is removed, the status changes.
Under the law, a disabled person does not participate in the retirement system and therefore has no way of building up his reserve in order that he may receive full benefit of the retirement upon reaching retirement age. The legislature made no provision to take care of this situation. Perhaps some corrective legislation is needed.
The compulsory retirement provisions of the act (section 14, chapter 250, Laws of 1947; 6362-94 Rem. Supp. 1947) direct that upon attaining the age of sixty years a member "shall automatically be separated from active duty" and thereupon become eligible for participation in the retirement fund. This on its face would seem to indicate that compulsory retirement is applicable only to members inactive service. A non-active member obviously cannot be separated from active service.
It is therefore our opinion that a person who receives compensation under the provisions of chapter 215, Laws of 1943 because of permanent or total disability incurred as a direct and proximate result of injury received in the course of employment will continue to receive said compensation as long as the disability exists and the age of retirement has nothing to do with it. We are satisfied that had the legislature meant for a person once on disability compensation to be placed on retirement compensation as soon as he reached the age of sixty, it would have said so in enacting chapter 250 of the Laws of 1947.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Attorney General