Retired Judge Jumped the Gun on Benefits Suit

     (CN) – A federal judge dismissed claims for additional benefits demanded by a retired jurist of the D.C. Superior Court who is on her way to getting relief administratively.
     Odessa Vincent retired in April 2010 after nearly nine years as a Superior Court associate judge.
     The D.C. pension office granted Vincent 50 percent of her salary as a judge when she filed for disability benefits, but Vincent said that figure shorted her $82,000 because it failed to include prior years of federal service.
     She sent letters to the office, refuting its numbers.
     Vincent sued the Treasury, the capital and the court in November 2011, before her application for a revised pension calculation made it past the Treasury’s three-step resolution process.
     Civil procedure requires an individual to file a suit after exhausting the resolution process, within 180 days of the Treasury’s final decision.
     In a Jan. 5, 2012, benefits assessment, seven weeks after Vincent filed suit, an administrator agreed that Vincent’s retirement salary should include her federal government service. The administrator strongly encouraged Vincent to apply for Social Security Disability Benefits so the office could recalculate what she was owed.
     Vincent sought reconsideration of the administrator’s assessment on March 2, 2012, because she was not medically qualified to collect Social Security disability.
     By March 30, a Treasury benefits administrator agreed that Vincent’s retirement pay should be “substantially increased.” To move ahead, the department required information about her medical condition and her inability to receive Social Security disability.
     Vincent was also required to pay for months of missed Civil Service Retirement System contributions stemming from her government job. She completed the requirements by April 3, 2012, and allowed a 30-day window to appeal the department’s decision to run out.
     “Indeed, the absurdity of her filing this suit is evident when one looks at the progress of plaintiff’s administrative case during the pendency of this case,” U.S. District Judge Richard Leon wrote.
     “Thus, within only a few months, a record of the parties’ particular positions was formed, the crucial issues were narrowed, and the plaintiffs claim for increased retirement benefits was acknowledged and accepted, all at the administrative level, without any necessity for intervention from the federal judiciary,” Leon added.
     “As such, plaintiff does not even dispute that she filed suit in this court well before her initial application for a corrected pension calculation cleared the first step of the Treasury’s three-tiered review process, much less before plaintiff obtained a final decision on the issue,” the eight-page opinion states.
     Judge Leon dismissed Vincent’s case “for failure to exhaust administrative remedies” because she had not completed the Treasury’s administrative process before filing her claim.
     “In short, this is a classic example of a ‘litigate first’ and ‘seek administrative relief later’ modus operandi,” Leon concluded.

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