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Johnson v. Mnuchin

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 23, 2019

CAROLYNE G. JOHNSON Plaintiff,
v.
STEVEN MNUCHIN, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TANYA S. CHUTKAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Carolyne G. Johnson, a former District of Columbia Public School (“DCPS”) employee, brings this action against Defendant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Treasury seeking reversal of the Office of the District of Columbia Pensions’ (“ODCP”) decision regarding her retirement benefits. (ECF No. 1 (“Compl.”))

         Defendant moves, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, for summary judgment. (ECF No. 8 (“Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J.”)) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant’s motion will be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Statutory Framework

         DCPS employees are eligible to participate in the District of Columbia Teachers’ Retirement Plan (the “Plan”), for which the Federal Government and the District Government share responsibility. See Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 105-33, 111 Stat. 251. The Federal Government, through the Treasury Department, is responsible for funding Plan benefits based on teacher service performed on or before June 30, 1997. See D.C. Code § 1-701; see also Id . at §§ 1-801.01–1-801.02 (defining retirement program as any teacher retirement program, as described in § 1-702(7), in effect on the day before June 30, 1997). The District Government administers the program through an independent agency, the District of Columbia Retirement Board (“DCRB”). See D.C. Code §§ 1-711, 1-809.01.

         If a Plan participant disagrees with a benefit determination, she may request reconsideration from the DCRB. See 31 C.F.R. § 29.404 (b)–(d). If she disagrees with the reconsideration determination, she may file an appeal with ODCP. See 31 C.F.R. § 29.405. ODCP’s decision is considered a final agency action, from which a party may seek judicial review. See 31 C.F.R. §§ 29.405–29.406.

         B. Plaintiff’s Employment and Plan Contribution History[1]

         Plaintiff began her career with DCPS as a temporary employee on September 1, 1961. (See A.R. 498.)[2] She was hired as a permanent DCPS employee on October 1, 1963. (Id.) It is undisputed that Plaintiff contributed to the Plan from 1963 to her resignation on July 29, 1970. (Id.) The parties disagree, however, on whether Plaintiff was issued a refund for the same period on October 6, 1970. (Compare A.R. 498 and 565 with ECF No. 10 (“Pl.’s Opp’n”) at 5 ¶ F.)

         Plaintiff resumed employment with DCPS on September 22, 1971 and was an off-and-on employee until her final period of employment began on September 1, 1979. (See A.R. 498.)

         On October 1, 1990, Plaintiff sent a letter to the District of Columbia Retirement Office, in which she mentioned that she had previously “retired” but returned to the DCPS and stated: “I am requesting that you please compute the amount of money I need to pay back into my retirement to bring it into compliance.” (A.R. 655 (emphasis added).)

         On January 29, 1991, the D.C. Retirement Section responded to Plaintiff, informing her that she could purchase 9 years, 4 months, and 29 days of creditable service for a lump sum of $9, 743.81. (A.R. 534.) The letter also included the following:

BREAKDOWN:

Due 06/30/91

00 yrs., 09 mos., 07 days = 08/30/60 – 06/06/61 Outside Teaching

= $1, 192.37

02 yrs., 01 mos., 00 days = 09/01/61 – 09/30/63 Temporary [Teaching]

= $3, 065.82

06 yrs., 06 mos., 22 days = 10/01/63 – 07/28/70 Redeposit Time

= $5, 485.62


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