Group of UC retirees appeal court decision

After losing in the courts earlier this year in a drawn-out legal battle regarding retirement health benefits, a group of UC retirees at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are appealing the court’s decision, seeking to prove that their original benefits were unfairly altered.

The UC Livermore Retiree Group — which claims that the UC allowed premiums and co-payments on employee health insurance to be raised in September 2008 after the lab’s management changed — filed an appeal July 29 in the Alameda County Superior Court, challenging the court’s May 26 decision in favor of the UC Board of Regents.

“The reason we’re doing this is that we don’t think the judge made the right decision,” said Joe Requa, president of the group and a petitioner in the case. “The (court) ignored everything the university ever told us.”

The original decision was made after the UC requested that the court throw out the case in December 2010 due to a lack of credible evidence.

As a result, the retirees were forced to file an appeal and rework their case to keep it open — which resulted in around $75,000 in legal fees.

In order to afford the appeal, the group is slowly raising money to pay the court in $25,000 increments, in addition to a $150,000 payment already spent on the case, according to Requa.

The initial dispute arose due to a transfer in management of the lab to Lawrence Livermore National Security — a government consortium of private companies that includes the UC — which took over the lab in 2007 from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The consortium has previously maintained that medical care was still offered during the entirety of the lawsuit and has not ceased as a result of the original transfer.

Representatives from the UC could not be reached for comment.

Although medical care has remained, Wendell Moen, a plaintiff in the case who worked at the lab full-time from 1963 to 2000, said the retirees want their original benefits and need the university to be more transparent when it comes to their health care.

“My belief is still that the university must re-examine its ethical positions with employees like me,” Moen said. “There is no reason in the world that they ought to single me out and move me into another group — it was purely a financial decision and is not one that ought to affect me.”

Dov Grunschlag, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the appeals process will last approximately 12 to 18 months.

According to Grunschlag, the retiree group sees the appeal as a second chance to correct the errors of the trial court’s ruling.

“We are hopeful that court of appeal will see that the claims we have made are legally valid,” he said. “On a practical and moral level, (the retirees) put their trust in the university, not in some organization that they have now — there is no telling what that outfit might decide to do with retiree benefits, if they might decide to eliminate them altogether or reduce the cost of them.”

Requa said that he is hopeful that the group’s appeal will be successful in overturning the judge’s original decision. However, he added that because of state budget cuts, the process may take some time.

“Given the fact that the California courts have been given a money cut, it’s not clear how fast things happen,” he said. “All we can do is sit and wait and see what the courts will do.”