While employer funded and provided retirement plans are fairly new in the private sector, the history of public pension plans date back thousands of years to the Roman Empire. While military pensions have the longest and most storied history, even early nation-states provided pensions to employees who administered public programs. Early Roman military pensions were most often land grants or special appropriations. In 13 BC, the Emperor Augustus created a formal pension plan, awarded after 16 years in a legion and four years in the military reserves. This pension was paid from general revenues until 5 or 6 AD when Augustus created a special fund (aeririum militare) to fund the military pensions.
As history progressed, and the Roman Empire fell, pensions were still provided, but mostly to military personnel as a disability benefit. In its 1592-1593 session the British Parliament created a special relief fund for military who became disabled and to compensate the beneficiaries of soldiers who died in combat. By the early 19th century, most of Western Europe offered pension plans to military personnel from special funds set aside for such payments.
Likewise, the American Colonies provided disability pensions to soldiers injured during the Revolutionary War. In 1775-1776 the Continental Congress established pensions for its army and naval forces; U.S. military pensions have been continuously provided since. While military pensions were provided to the United States Military for centuries, a formal plan for federal government employees was not created until 1920, and even then pensions were awarded on a case-by-case basis.
Decades ahead of the federal government, in 1857, New York City created the Police Life and Health Insurance Fund. This Fund became the first municipal disability plan, benefiting policemen disabled in service, or the families of officers killed in the line of duty. The original fund was comprised of sales of unclaimed stolen property, rewards, voluntary contributions and fines collected for violations of Sunday laws. In 1858, there were 1,430 members of the pensionable uniformed police force and two widows of fallen officers eligible for benefits from the fledgling fund.
From its onset there were numerous legislative and administrative changes to normalize the payments allocated and how such payments would be funded. The present day New York City Police Pension Fund (Subchapter 2) was incorporated in 1940, succeeding the Subchapter 1 fund covering New York City Police prior to then. In 1995 legislation was enacted to merge Subchapter 1 with Subchapter 2. That same year Housing Authority and Transit Authority Police Officers were merged into the New York City Police Department; with the merge came approximately 7,000 transferred active members from the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS).
In 2001 legislation provided Corpus Funding for the Pension Fund to begin operations in September 2002 at its new location in the Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway in New York City. From limited workspace and technology, the Fund migrated to a state of the art workplace. From 1858 with only 1,430 Police Officers, the Fund now assists over 75,000 active and retired members and beneficiaries with pension related matters.