In a recent opinion, the Department of Insurance has advised firefighters exercising their reciprocity option under Section 4-109.3 of the Pension Code should be granted tier 1 retirement benefits even in cases where they were previously only eligible for tier 2 benefits.
Section 4-109.3 of the Pension Code gives firefighters who have service with at least two funds the ability to receive retirement benefits. Generally speaking, in order to qualify a firefighter must be at least 50 years old at the time of retirement, have at least 20 years of combined service, have at least one year of service with all prior funds, and have at least three years of service with the final fund. Other detailed requirements must be met but will not be discussed here.
In its opinion, the DOI succinctly concludes because the date a firefighter first came under Article 4 does not impact the benefits provided under 4-109.3, any firefighter who exercises their ability to receive benefits under that Section is entitled to tier 1 benefits. In short, in the DOI’s opinion, even tier 2 firefighters are entitled to tier 1 benefits if retiring under Section 4-109.3 of the Pension Code.