SENATE, No. 3427

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

221st LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED JUNE 10, 2024

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator† BRITNEE N. TIMBERLAKE

District 34 (Essex)

Senator† M. TERESA RUIZ

District 29 (Essex and Hudson)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Permits companion to receive PFRS accidental death pension when there is no surviving spouse; requires adjustment of final compensation for calculation of accidental death benefit for surviving spouse, companion, and children of PFRS members.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† As introduced.

††


An Act concerning accidental death benefits for survivors of members of the Police and Firemenís Retirement System of New Jersey, and amending P.L.1944, c.255.

 

†††† Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

†††† 1.† Section 10 of P.L.1944, c.255 (C.43:16A-10) is amended to read as follows:

†††† 10. †(1) Upon the death of a member in active service as a result of:

†††† (a)†† an accident met in the actual performance of duty at some definite time and place, or

†††† (b)†† service in the reserve component of the Armed Forces of the United States or the National Guard in a federal active duty status, and such death was not the result of the member's willful negligence, an accidental death benefit shall be payable if a report of the accident is filed in the office of the retirement system within 60 days next following the accident, but the board of trustees may waive such time limit, for a reasonable period, if in the judgment of the board the circumstances warrant such action.† No such application shall be valid or acted upon unless it is filed in the office of the retirement system within five years of the date of such death.

†††† The provisions of this subsection shall also apply to a member who is a fireman and who dies as a result of an accident met in the actual performance of duty as a volunteer fireman in any municipality in the State, provided the member's death was not the result of the member's willful negligence.

†††† (2)†† Upon the receipt of proper proofs of the death of a member on account of which an accidental death benefit is payable, there shall be paid to his widow or widower a pension of 70% of the compensation upon which contributions by the member to the annuity savings fund were based in the last year of creditable service, or of adjusted final compensation, as appropriate, or a pension of $50,000 when death occurs on or after the effective date of P.L.2020, c.151, whichever is greater, for the use of herself or himself and the children of the deceased member. [; if] If there is no surviving widow or widower, 70% of such compensation or adjusted final compensation, or a pension of $50,000, whichever is greater, shall be paid to the memberís companion as defined herein. If there is no surviving widow or widower or in case the widow or widower dies or if there is no companion or in the case the companion dies, 70% of such compensation, or adjusted final compensation, as the case may be, will be payable to the member's surviving child or surviving children in equal shares.

†††† If there is no surviving widow, widower, companion, or child, 25% of the compensation upon which contributions by the member to the annuity savings fund were based in the last year of creditable service, will be payable to one surviving dependent parent or 40% of such compensation will be payable to two surviving parents in equal shares.

†††† As used in this section, "adjusted final compensation" means the amount of compensation upon which contributions by the member to the annuity savings fund were based in the last year of creditable service or final compensation as adjusted, as the case may be, increased by the same percentage increase which is applied in any adjustments of the compensation schedule of active members after the member's death and before the date on which the deceased member of the retirement system would have accrued 25 years of service under an assumption of continuous service, at which time the amount resulting from such increases shall become fixed and shall be the basis for any adjustments pursuant to the Pension Adjustment Act, P.L.1958, c.143 (C.43:3B-1 et seq.).† Any adjustments to compensation or adjusted final compensation shall take effect at the same time as any adjustments in the compensation schedule of active members.† The provisions of the Pension Adjustment Act shall not apply to any pension based upon adjusted final compensation other than the fixed pension in effect at the conclusion of the 25-year period.

†††† In the event of accidental death occurring in the first year of creditable service, the benefits, payable pursuant to this subsection, shall be computed at the annual rate of compensation.

†††† (3)†† If there is no surviving widow, widower, companion, child or dependent parent, there shall be paid to any other beneficiary of the deceased member, his aggregate contributions at the time of death.

†††† (4)†† In no case shall the death benefit provided in subsection (2) be less than that provided under subsection (3).

†††† (5)†† In addition to the foregoing benefits payable under subsection (2) or (3), there shall also be paid in one sum to such beneficiary, if living, as the member shall have nominated by written designation duly executed and filed with the retirement system, otherwise to the executor or administrator of the member's estate, an amount equal to 3 1/2 times the compensation upon which contributions by the member to the annuity savings fund were based in the last year of creditable service.

†††† (6)†† In addition to the foregoing benefits, the State shall pay to the member's employer-sponsored health insurance program all health insurance premiums for the coverage of the member's surviving widow or widower and dependent children.

†††† (7)†† The adjustment in survivors' benefits pursuant to the amendment to subsection (2) of this section made by P.L.†† , c.†† (pending before the Legislature as this bill) shall apply to benefit entitlements granted prior to and in effect on the effective date of P.L.†† , c.†† (pending before the Legislature as this bill), but only for benefit payments made after that effective date.† No surviving spouse, surviving companion, or surviving child of a deceased member of the retirement system shall be granted a retroactive payment based upon the difference between the benefit the person would have received if the adjustment had been applicable at the date of entitlement and the benefit that the surviving spouse, surviving companion, or surviving child has received from the date of entitlement to that effective date.

†††† (8)†† When the death of a member occurred on or after January 1, 2023 but prior to the effective date of P.L.†† , c.††††† (pending before the Legislature as this bill) and the member did not have a surviving spouse, children, or dependent parents at the time of death, or if the memberís aggregate contributions have not been paid to a beneficiary or the estate, or have been returned to the retirement system, a companion as defined herein may apply to receive the accidental death pension as set forth in subsection 2 of this section and, if approved, the pension shall be made retroactive to the date of death of the member.†† The surviving companion may file, no later than six months following that effective date, the proper proofs of death of the member for which an accidental death benefit is payable and an application for an accidental death pension pursuant to this section.

†††† (9)†† As used in this act, ďcompanionĒ means an individual who:

†††† was of legal age and capable of giving consent when the individual entered into a cohabiting relationship with the deceased member;

†††† was not legally married or in a legal civil union with another person during the period of cohabitation;

†††† cohabitated with the deceased member for a period of at least two years and was still cohabitating with the member at the time of the memberís death;

†††† consented to the duties and obligations of the household as evidenced by money being transferred to the member for household expenses or by paying household expenses directly; and

†††† was generally reputed in public appearance with the member as the equivalent of a legal spouse in a marriage.

†††† Cohabitation of the member and the companion may be verified by notarized sworn statements of relatives of the deceased member, neighbors of the address of the cohabitants at the time of the memberís death, or another adult member of the household during the period of cohabitation.

(cf: P.L.2020, c.151, s.2)

†††† 2. †This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† Under current law, the surviving spouse of a member of the Police and Firemenís Retirement System of New Jersey (PFRS) who died in the line of duty receives a pension of 70 percent of the memberís compensation, or a minimum of $50,000 annually, during the life of that spouse.† If there is no surviving spouse, the pension of 70 percent of final compensation is paid to the memberís surviving children.† This bill requires that the amount of the compensation be adjusted for a period of time after the death of the member, thereby increasing the annual pension for surviving spouses and children.

†††† The compensation will be increased by the same percentage increase which is applied in any adjustments of the compensation schedule of active members after the member's death and before the date on which the deceased member of the retirement system would have accrued 25 years of service under an assumption of continuous service. †At 25 years, the amount resulting from such increases will become fixed and be the basis for any increases for cost of living granted thereafter.† Any adjustments will take effect at the same time as any adjustments in the compensation schedule of active members.† The bill provides that adjustments to PFRS accidental death survivorsí pension would apply to those granted prior to effective date of the bill but only for payments made on or after the effective date of the bill.

†††† In addition, this bill permits that same pension of 70 percent of compensation to be paid to a companion of a member who died in the line of duty on or after January 1, 2023.† A companion is defined in the bill.

†††† The bill permits a companion of a member who died before the billís effective date to file, within six months after the billís effective date, an application for an accidental death pension, and if approved, the pension will be made retroactive to the date of the memberís death.† The companion of a member who died before the effective date of the bill may apply for a pension only if the deceased member did not have a surviving spouse, children, or dependent parents at the time of death, or if the memberís aggregate contributions have not been paid to a beneficiary or the estate, or have been returned to the retirement system.