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Miley v. Lew

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

May 19, 2014

LINDA J. MILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
JACOB J. LEW, SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY, Defendant

Page 166

For LINDA J. MILEY, Plaintiff: Robert S. Porter, Omar Vincent Melehy, MELEHY & ASSOCIATES LLC, Silver Spring, MD.

For JACOB J. LEW, Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury, Defendant: Carl Ezekiel Ross, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

Page 167

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Linda Miley has filed suit challenging an administrative decision of the United States Department of Treasury's Office of D.C. Pensions denying her claim for a refund of funds contributed to her retirement plan as a teacher in the District of Columbia Public Schools. Presently before the Court are Defendant's [34] Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's [35] Motion for Declaratory Judgment. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions,[1] the applicable authorities, and the entire record, the Court shall GRANT Defendant's [34] Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment and DENY Plaintiff's [35] Motion for Declaratory Judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

Under Title XI of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, the Federal Government and the District of Columbia share responsibility for the District of Columbia Teachers' Retirement Plan (" the Plan" ). See Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 105-33, 111 Stat. 251. Administration of the Plan is provided by the District of Columbia Retirement Board (" DCRB" ), an independent agency of the District of Columbia Government. See D.C. Code § 1-809.01. The U.S. Department of Treasury (" Treasury" ) is responsible for funding Plan benefits based on service performed on or before June 30, 1997. See id. § 1-701 et seq. Plan participants who are denied benefits may request reconsideration from DCRB. 31 C.F.R. § 29.404(b)-(d). In addition, participants with service accrued on or before June 30, 1997, and whose claim for a Federal Benefit Payment has been denied by DCRB through the reconsideration process may appeal to Treasury's Office of D.C. Pensions (" ODCP" ). Id. § 29.405. Treasury's decision represents a final agency action, and a party may seek judicial review of that decision by filing suit in this District. Alston v. Lew, 950 F.Supp.2d 140, 141 (D.D.C. 2013).

With regard to the specific facts of this case, Plaintiff Linda Miley (" Plaintiff" or " Miley" ) was hired pursuant to a temporary appointment by the District of Columbia Public Schools (" DCPS" ) on September

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1, 1965. AR 0020. She continued as a temporary appointment until November 1, 1967. Id. In 1965, DCPS temporary teachers were subject to coverage under the federal Civil Service Retirement System (" CSRS" ), a defined benefit contributory retirement system distinct from the Plan. Id. See also 5 U.S.C. § § 8331(1)(G); 8332 et seq. The statutory language of the Plan at the time defined the term " teacher" to " include all teachers permanently employed by the Board of Education in the public day schools of the District of Columbia . . . ." D.C. Code § 31-733 (1961) (emphasis added). AR 0020, 0082. Plaintiff's Individual Retirement Record was maintained by the United States Office of Personnel Management (" OPM" ), which provided administration of retirement benefits under CSRS to DCPS personnel at the time. AR 0020. These records show Plaintiff's service history and contributions to CSRS between September 1, 1965 and October 31, 1967. Id. Plaintiff's contributions to CSRS during this period totaled $797.27. Id. She requested a refund of CSRS contributions on or about December 18, 1967, and on January 17, 1968, OPM authorized a refund in the amount of $821.79, which included accrued interest. Id. at 0020, 0086-0087.

On or about November 1, 1967, DCPS converted Plaintiff to a probationary appointment. Id. at 0020. After completing an additional two-year probationary period, Plaintiff became a permanent DCPS teacher on or about November 1, 1969. Id. Plaintiff served in this capacity until July 3, 1973, at which point she resigned. Once Plaintiff became a probationary teacher, she began participating in and making contributions to the Plan. Id. at 0021. When Plaintiff began participating in the Plan, she did not deposit the contributions made to CSRS into the Plan. Id. at 0020, 0089-0090.

Plaintiff resigned from DCPS in July 1973 for health reasons. Id. at 0021. At that time, the District's Office of Pay and Retirement Services (" OPRS" ) was the Plan's benefits administrator. Id. OPRS used Form FA 103 (Individual Retirement Record) and Form DA-33 (Separation Retain Record) in the ordinary course of business in processing a District employee's refund of retirement contributions from the Plan. Id. Form FA 103, dated August 16, 1973, reflects a refund of Plaintiff's employee contributions to the Plan totaling $3,309.53, for contributions made from November 1, 1967 to July 3, 1973. Id. at 0021, 0113. Form DA-33, also dated August 16, 1973, reflects the same refund. Id. at 0021, 0115. Both documents state: " Voucher Prepared & Paid on Audit # 021481." Id. at 0021, 0113-0115. Plaintiff denies that she ever received this refund. Id. at 0019.

DCPS rehired Plaintiff on April 15, 1974. Id. at 0021. Upon reinstatement, there is no record of Plaintiff making additional contributions to the Plan beyond what was deducted from her salary by D.C. law. Id. at 0021, 0117-0118. By letter dated June 22, 2010, DCPS issued Plaintiff a notice of involuntary separation on the grounds that she had not timely submitted documentation establishing compliance with District licensure requirements. Id. at 0021-22, 0120. Following this notice, Plaintiff filed for, and was granted, early involuntary retirement, effective August 13, 2010. Id. at 0022, 0122-0125. Following Plaintiff's retirement, the DCRB, as the Administrator of the Plan, calculated Plaintiff's retirement benefit on or about June 22, 2010. The retirement calculation reflected creditable service from April 15, 1974 to August 13, 2010. Id. at 0022, 0125-0126.

By letter dated July 30, 2010, Plaintiff requested that DCRB reconsider the June

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22, 2010 benefit calculation, stating that she had never received a refund of her employee contributions from 1967 to 1973, and should therefore be accorded service time under the Plan for this period. Id. at 0022, 0132. DCRB subsequently denied this reconsideration request, concluding that the existence of a Form 103 and Form DA-33 reflected the issuance of a refund of Plan contributions for this period on August 16, 1973. Id. at 0134-0137.

Plaintiff appealed DCRB's denial of her reconsideration request to Treasury's ODCP on October 1, 2010, reiterating her claim that she had not received a refund of Plan contributions of $3,309.53 on August 16, 1973. Id. at 0027. Plaintiff further challenged DCRB's calculation of her dates of employment, stating that based on a DCPS March 17, 2009 Human Resources Sheet, she was employed by DCPS starting on September 1, 1965 (not November 1, 1967) and was therefore entitled to two additional years of service. Id. at 0027-0040. Treasury denied Plaintiff's appeal on both claims in a decision dated February 28, 2012. Id. at 0042-0058.

On August 24, 2012, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court, challenging ODCP's February 28, 2012 decision. See Compl., ECF No. [1]. On March 13, 2013, the Court granted a joint motion to remand ODCP's February 28, 2012 decision to Treasury in order to consider relevant new evidence recently obtained. See Order, ECF No. [18]. According ...


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