CASE is pleased to announce that it has once again secured an important victory for members who were improperly and illegally denied their CoBen Cash benefits by the State based on the State’s misreading of state and federal law. The attached (click here) arbitration award makes clear that members who have TRICARE coverage are (and have always been) entitled to CoBen Cash just like any other Unit 2 member who has health and dental coverage from another source. CASE is the only bargaining unit that has challenged the State on the CoBen Cash benefit issue. As a union of legal professionals, CASE is always at the forefront of litigation which attempts to protect our members.
Case Background: The Unit 2 MOU provides that any employee who certifies that they have qualifying group health and/or dental coverage from an outside source is entitled to $130 or $155 per month. This is a win for the state employer as well as the employee. The state does not have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars per month on the employer contribution to the employee’s health benefits each month (thus saving taxpayer money), and the employee gets a small stipend on top of their already low salary. Employees may have health and dental coverage from any number of outside sources, often through their spouse or spouse’s employer. One such outside source is TRICARE, which is a health plan for members of the military and their dependents. For some reason, in 2015 the State concluded that TRICARE no longer qualified as a group health plan under the Affordable Care Act, and unilaterally stopped paying Unit 2 members with TRICARE the CoBen Cash to which they were entitled each month.
Prior Arbitration: CASE filed a grievance back in 2015 that went all the way to arbitration, and CASE prevailed, forcing the State to pay our members back pay for the months they had wrongfully withheld the CoBen Cash. The State was so adamant that they asked the Superior Court to set aside the arbitration award, which the Court denied. CASE pointed out that the State had not identified a single court decision anywhere in the country finding that TRICAREE was incompatible with the Affordable Care Act. CASE also pointed out that no federal agency (IRS, Dept. of Labor, etc.) had sent the state any warning letters suggesting that its use of CoBen Cash for TRICARE members was illegal.
Events Leading to the Current Case: Shortly after CASE prevailed in the prior arbitration, the State proposed minor modifications to section 11.1 of the MOU, the provision covering CoBen Cash. Then, the State reverted to its old position, claiming that CoBen Cash was not available to members with TRICARE coverage, and began withholding the payments again based on the new language in the MOU. CASE immediately filed another grievance, which again went all the way to arbitration, and which again resulted in a CASE victory. CASE is the only bargaining unit that has challenged the State on the CoBen Cash benefit issue.
Outcome: Unit 2 Members with TRICARE coverage who were improperly denied their CoBen Cash payments for the last (approximately) two and one-half years will be receiving a check for the back pay, and will begin receiving their CoBen Cash each month prospectively. It will probably take the State a couple months to process the pay adjustments. This could be delayed if the State again attempts to set aside the award by filing a petition in Superior Court, but CASE will vigorously fight any such frivolous action by the State.
What You Should Do: If you or any of your colleagues have health or dental coverage through TRICARE, please let us know immediately so that we can ensure you get the money to which you are entitled. CASE is completely mystified as to why the State chose to single out our members who have served in the military personally or have family members who have done so. CASE is equally mystified as to why the State would try to eliminate a program which saves taxpayer money. Nevertheless, CASE will vigorously defend our members’ rights to all of the pay and benefits to which they are entitled.
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