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Sixth Circuit Limits Reach of Yard-Man Inference on Vesting of Welfare Benefits

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently addressed the enforceability of a plan amendment limiting to a period of two years the duration of collectively-bargained occupational disability benefits under a pension plan. The opinion is notable because it distinguishes existing case law on the vesting of welfare benefits cited by both the participant and the plan. The plaintiff, a participant who was already receiving the disability benefits at issue, argued that the amendment violated ERISA because his benefits were vested as a matter of law. The district court agreed, relying on Int?ÇÖl Union, United Auto., Aerospace, & Agric. Implement Workers of Am. v. Yard-Man, Inc., 716 F.2d 1476, 1482 (6th Cir. 1983), under which an inference in favor of vesting is used to determine whether a right to retiree health benefits continues beyond the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement. The Sixth Circuit vacated the district court… Continue Reading

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