Divorce is a complicated and difficult situation for any Minnesota couple; however, members of the PERA Police and Fire Plan should take notice of some special considerations that could affect their access to Duty Disability benefits. Now, we do not practice family law at Meuser Law Office, P.A. but over our years of experience working with Minnesota police officers and firefighters we have routinely seen divorce decrees and domestic relations orders that do not distinguish between retirement and duty disability benefits. This non-distinction can have potentially devastating consequences if a police officer or firefighter sustains a disabling injury in the line of duty at any point following the divorce. Many family law attorneys are not well versed in PERA Duty Disability benefits so it is important for individual members to have the necessary information to protect these valuable disability benefits.
What is the distinction between Duty Disability and retirement benefits under the PERA Police and Fire Plan?
Minnesota police officers and firefighters are entitled to Duty Disability benefits under Minnesota Statutes section 353.656, subd. 1 if the service member suffers a physical or psychological condition that is expected to prevent him or her from performing his or her normal duties as a police officer or firefighter for a period of at least a year. The disability must be the direct result of an injury incurred during, or an illness arising out of, the performance of work duties and the duties must present inherent dangers that are specific to police officers or firefighters. This is a type of wage loss benefit paid at a base rate of sixty percent of your average monthly salary benefit during the highest five consecutive years of earnings.