DELTA PILOT LTD benefits are not pension benefits.
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DISABILITY BENEFITS: The Long Term Disability (LTD) benefits are paid from the Delta Pilots Disability and Survivorship (D&S) Plan which is defined as a Welfare Benefit Plan rather than a Pension Plan. The LTD benefit generally is based upon 50% of the pilot's earnings prior to the Event Date of his disability. A more precise definition is that the LTD benefit is calculated as 50% of the average of highest 12 consecutive months of earnings out of the last 36 months of earnings. One-half of the LTD benefit has a variable feature which can increase the benefit over time. For an explanation of the variable benefit click here; for a table of Variable Benefit Unit values, click here. Retirement benefits from the Delta Pilots Retirement Plans reduce the LTD benefit on a dollar for dollar basis. The LTD benefit of pilots who remained on the Delta seniority list after June 1, 2006 cease when the pilot reaches the FAA mandatory retirement age; LTD benefits of pilots who were removed from the seniority list on or before June 1, 2006 generally continue for the pilot's lifetime, but are offset by retirement benefits as mentioned previously.
WHO SHOULD SUPPORT DDPSA: Long Term Disabled (LTD) pilots who no longer were on the Delta Pilots Seniority List after June 1, 2006, should be ardent supporters of DDPSA. Without the concerted efforts of several individuals, the financial position of such disabled pilots probably would be much more bleak today. Retired Delta pilots, whose eligible family members may be entitled to survivor benefits under the D&S Plan, as well as survivors who currently are receiving D&S Plan benefits also should have an interest in supporting DDPSA.
INITIAL SUCCESS: The initial challenge arose when Delta declared bankruptcy in September of 2005 and immediately ceased paying non-qualified retirement benefits. Because Delta retirement benefits serve as a dollar for dollar offset against LTD benefits, the question arose whether or not lost retirement benefits could still be an appropriate offset to LTD benefits. Delta initially continued to reduce LTD benefits by what later was termed to be a "phantom offset." Several months later, after John Erickson spearheaded a protest to the offset, Delta conceded that the lost non-qualified retirement benefits were not appropriate offsets to LTD benefits. Consequently, LTD benefits were restored retrospectively and corrected prospectively.
SUCCESS IN BANKRUPTCY: During the bankruptcy proceedings, Delta and ALPA negotiated Letter of Agreement (LOA) #51 under which the offset to LTD benefits was defined as the amount that disabled pilots should have received if the retirement plan had not been terminated. This provision was defined as being applicable to all pilots receiving disability benefits regardless of their date of retirement. LOA #51 also included a provision under which pilots receiving disability benefits (even retired pilots) could be subjected to re-certification of their disability status.
Fortunately, the bankruptcy process required Section 1114 proceedings prior to amending retiree benefits. When a separate Section 1114 Committee for Retired Pilots was authorized by the bankruptcy court, DDPA and a group of former Pan Am pilots began a search for highly qualified individuals to file applications for positions on that committee. The bankruptcy trustee eventually selected nine committee members, including two retired pilots who were attorneys, a retired pilot who had experience as a bankruptcy trustee, a very astute survivor of a deceased disabled pilot and five other retired pilots (including three DP3 trustees).
The Section 1114 Pilot Committee was successful in obtaining a bankruptcy court stipulation that the provisions of LOA #51 were not enforceable on retired pilots. Additionally, the Section 1114 Pilot Committee was informed that Delta withdrew all proposals to amend retiree benefits under the D&S Plan. When the qualified retirement plan subsequently was terminated, LTD pilots did not experience a phantom offset to their LTD benefits because a precedent had been set in the termination of non-qualified benefits.
OTHER ACCOMPLISHMENTS: There have been other instances where DDPSA appears to have covered your six o'clock position. One such instance related to an inadvertent amendment to the D&S Plan which could have significantly reduced the benefits of survivors of many of our disabled pilots. That inadvertent amendment has been corrected. Another accomplishment was a ruling from the Benefits Review Board (BRB) that determined that an inappropriate social security offset was applied to LTD benefits. For Frequently Asked Questions about the social security offset issue click here to read. DDPSA discovered that variable increases improperly were being applied to the offset to LTD benefits when pilots elected a lump sum distribution from the Delta Pilots Retirement Plan. This error, which negatively impacted the LTD benefits of many pilots, was corrected as part of the extensive review of LTD benefits. Survivors of deceased disabled pilots also should receive appropriate benefit corrections. To read answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the variable increase error to offsets to LTD benefits, click here to read.
MORE INFORMATION: More information about disability benefits (including information about offsets to LTD benefits and over-payments from the D&S Plan) and the D&S Trust can be viewed by clicking on the blue buttons near the top of this page. Clicking on the green buttons will allow you to access the Flight Plan for the Final Flight West and the Survivor's Benefit Worksheet. The Flight Plan for the Final Flight West is a document that should prove useful to your survivors. The Survivor's Benefit Worksheet can be used to estimate the D&S Plan benefit payable to eligible survivors.
YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS: It is reasonable for DDPSA to expect disabled pilots to join our efforts with an initial contribution of $500 followed by annual contributions of $100 until total contributions reach $1,000. This is a small sum in comparison to the benefits of disabled pilots that have been protected primarily through the efforts of a few dedicated volunteers. Disabled pilots fared relatively well through the Delta bankruptcy. It seems fitting for disabled pilots to lead the effort in assisting all retired Delta pilots and their survivors.
Although the information on this page is believed to be accurate, no warranties are made or implied as to the accuracy of the information.