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U.S. to expand probe into New York City pensions for veterans

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 22 Oct 2012 20:33 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Civil probe to include all retired NYC employees

* US sued NYC over NYPD pensions in August

* City suspected of underpaying veterans on pensions

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK, Oct 22 (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors are widening their probe into whether New York City unlawfully reduced pension benefits to retired employees who served in the military since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan said in a statement on Monday that it was broadening an existing investigation into benefits for police officers to include retirees from any city agency who collect a pension from the city.

In August, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court accusing the city of using only police officers' base pay to calculate benefits.

Under a 1994 anti-discrimination law dealing with veterans who return to work, an employer must take into account the compensation that the service member would likely have earned had he or she not been performing military service, the lawsuit said.

The New York City law department had no immediate comment on the announcement.

In Monday's statement, Bharara said that since August, prosecutors had received "dozens of inquiries" from veterans from different city agencies. As a result, the office was "broadening the scope of its investigation," the statement said.

"We are now encouraging any covered city employee who thinks his or her benefits were unlawfully calculated to come forward ... " to "assess whether the unlawful practices identified with respect to the NYPD extend to other city agencies as well," the statement said.

The statement did not say how many additional potential retirees the expanded probe could encompass. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment.

The lawsuit began in 2010 as a case filed on behalf of three police officers. The U.S. Attorney's Office, through its civil rights unit, joined that lawsuit with its August legal action. The lawsuit was assigned to U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in Manhattan.

At a hearing before Sullivan in June, a federal prosecutor estimated that about 2,000 NYPD officers had served in the military between 2001 and 2012.

Net assets of the police fund, one of five New York City pension funds, totaled ${esc.dollar}24.75 billion in fiscal 2011, a 24 percent increase from the previous year, according to financial statements.

The case is David Goodman et al v. City of New York et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 10-cv-5236.

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