PERA stands for the Public Employees Retirement Association, an organization that operates only in the State of Minnesota. Generally speaking, PERA provides and manages the benefits for certain public employees—for example, retired government workers, police officers and firefighters—who worked for local governments throughout the State. Currently, PERA serves over 150,000 public employees and pays benefits to more than 40,000 retirees, survivors, and disabled members. This article explains PERA’s role in providing disability benefits and workers’ compensation.
The first step towards eligibility is to be a PERA member. Under Minnesota law, most non-elected public employee positions—like police officers, firefighters, correctional officers and employees working for state counties, cities, townships, and public school districts—are automatically enrolled. However, some public employees have the option to participate as a member of PERA. Typically, optional membership is offered for certain elected officials, volunteer ambulance personnel, city managers, and physicians employed by local governments.
When applying for disability benefits, PERA members may receive one of two types of disability: “duty” disability or regular disability benefits. Duty Disability benefits are available for police officers, firefighters, and correctional officers for injuries that occurred during or arose out of the performance of duties specific to protecting the property or the safety of others. Under statute, these duties have to be inherently dangerous. Which duties are “inherently dangerous” are not always clear. In addition, the injury must prevent the performance of future duties for at least a year. If you are eligible for Duty Disability, PERA calculates your benefit by averaging 60% of your monthly salary benefit during the highest five consecutive years of earnings, also referred to as your high-five salary. That rate is increased by 3% for each year of service beyond 20 years.