The pension plan exists to provide an incentive to keep members active for longer periods of time and to give the officers some leverage to keep them participating in training, duty shifts and responses. The State Board recommends that participation in the pension plan be made contingent upon fulfilling realistic performance requirements in the department. If department requirements are not met, please note this on the annual remittance form so that disallowed pension payments may not be made up at a future date.
The minimum requirements for vesting or qualifying for a pension under the Volunteer Firefighters’ Pension Plan are ten years of service and one payment into the pension fund. The amount of the pension vested increases for each five years of service beyond the minimum ten years and for each pension payment made. The maximum pension is vested with 25 of service and 25 payments into the pension fund. Many of the smaller pensions compute to a monthly payment of less than $50.00. These pensions are paid as one time lump-sum settlements based upon the value of the annuity. All pensions which compute to more than $50.00 are paid in monthly payments for as long as the member lives and cease upon his or her death or upon the death of both the member and her or his spouse if the Joint/Survivor Option is chosen. You can find monthly amounts by using the pension tables.
When a member of the pension plan leaves the service without vesting a pension (or decides not to accept his or her vested pension), the fees that he or she has paid into the plan may be refunded. For this purpose, a State of Washington Invoice Voucher must be prepared requesting a refund of pension fees and stating that the participant is no longer a member of the volunteer fire service or reserve law enforcement. The name of the former member should be placed in the box at the top left, and she or he should sign in the payee’s signature box. After securing the Local Board’s approval as shown by the signatures of the chair and secretary, the vouchers must be sent to the State Board for processing. Upon the death of a member who has not retired, the State Board should be contacted with the spouse’s name and birth date. It can then be determined whether the spouse will be entitled to a refund, a lump-sum settlement or a monthly pension. If the member does not have a spouse at death, the refund may be paid to his or her heirs or estate. Please include a photocopy of the death certificate with the voucher.
When a member or former member is nearing the age at which he or she wishes to retire and begin drawing a pension, a set of retirement forms should be requested from the State Board. These consist of a Notice of Retirement, which must be completed and signed by the member and notarized by a notary public, and a Certificate of Eligibility, which must be approved by the Local Board of Trustees. Both forms will have been partially completed to reflect the records on file with the State Board in Olympia.
All members who served after July 1, 1989, are entitled to choose to receive a reduced pension which will continue for the life of the member and his or her surviving spouse named in the Notice of Retirement. The actual amount of the reduction is determined based upon the difference in age between the member and spouse. If the pensioner’s spouse then predeceases him or her, effective the first day of the month following the spouse’s death, the pension will be popped back up to the original amount. A Marriage Certificate or a Certificate of State Registered Domestic Partnership is required if the joint/survivor option is selected.
When a retired member who is receiving a pension dies, it is necessary that the State Board be notified immediately, since the pension ceases on the day of death or must be transferred to the spouse if the member has chosen the Joint/Survivor Option. If the Joint/Survivor Option is not in effect, the secretary must notify the State Board and may be asked to prepare an invoice voucher payable to the surviving spouse or estate and attach a photocopy of the death certificate. The voucher will pay the pension from the first day of the month in which the pensioner died to the date of death. In the case of the Joint/Survivor pension, the State Board must be notified so that the records can be changed and the pension can begin being sent to the surviving spouse.
If the retired member has not yet begun to draw a pension at the time of death, her or his spouse or estate may receive a refund of the pension fees paid in or the spouse may elect to receive the vested pension to which he or she would be entitled under the Joint/Survivor Option. The refund is accomplished by the completion of an invoice voucher with the required three signatures and a photocopy of the death certificate. A survivor’s pension must be applied for from the State Board in the same way that a retired member applies for a pension.