The practical impact of tying the benefits to the time of hire is that 1) those workers who had been hired prior to the lifetime disability contract and had applied for disability before it had ended received lifetime DDRA; 2) those who had been hired during the period of the lifetime disability contract and had applied for disability after it had ended also received lifetime DDRA, and 3) only those who had been hired prior to the start of that contract but had not applied for disability until after it had ended suffered a diminution of the promised lifetime DDRA benefit.
Liberally construing pension laws, carefully examining the specific provisions of the applicable statutes and ordinances, accurately applying the principles of Welter, and truly understanding the legislature’s recognition of the importance of attraction and retention of public employees, we conclude that the firefighters gained vested rights in the highest level of duty disability benefits that came to be contractually established during their years of active duty. We reverse the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment to the City and remand for the entry of declaratory judgment in favor of the firefighters.
Reversed and remanded.
Recommended for publication in the official reports.
Dist I, Milwaukee County, Kahn, J., Schudson, J.
For Appellant: Donald R. Fraker, Mequon
For Respondent: Thomas E. Hayes Jr., Milwaukee