Dangers of Not Knowing the 2 Year Rule

A firefighter points while standing in front of a pile of burning rubble and other workers.

You became a firefighter because you love the thrill and action of the job. Split second responses to danger. Not an office job, not a 9 to 5, but an ever ready 24-hour shift. Yet last week, tragedy struck – you were hosing down the charred remainder of an old farmhouse, and as you turned your back to signal to a crew member, several pieces of the chimney fell. Your reactions were not quick enough, and your shoulder and lower back were hit with crumbling brick, causing serious injury. Your doctor said you would not be able to return to your regular duties as a firefighter due to a partial disablement of your right shoulder.

Fast forward 18 months. You try to return to your regular duties as a firefighter but are unable to perform so you begin thinking of applying for PERA disability benefits. What you probably don’t realize is that the clock is ticking and time is running down, limiting your possible range of choices regarding your financial security.

The law governing the Minnesota Public Employees Retirement Association (“PERA”) disability benefits, states that if you file an application for disability benefits within 2 years of your injury, you must show you are not able to perform the job duties performed at the time of the injury. Minn. Stat. § 353.031. Whereas, if you wait more than 2 years to file your application, then you must show you can’t perform the job duties expected by your employer during the 90 days preceding your last day of providing services for your employer, regardless of whether you can perform your former pre-injury duties or not. Minn. Stat. § 353.031.

In other words, you spend three months recuperating your injury. Dying from boredom, you decide to try out some light duty firehouse work in the meantime, hoping that your doctor’s predictive expertise turns out wrong and you can renew your former frontline fire duties.

But after 2 years, you come to grips with the reality that your shoulder will never be the same. Yet, because more than 2 years have lapsed between the date of your injury and the filing of your application, you may not be able to receive PERA disability benefits. Why? Because you’ve showed sufficient capability in performing light duty during the 90 days preceding your last day of work.

You didn’t sign up to do an office job working 9 to 5 hours. You signed up to be a firefighter, and you’re unable to be one anymore. If you’re concerned that 2 years has possibly passed and are questioning your eligibility to receive PERA disability benefits, contact the experienced attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. for a free, no-obligation legal consultation. Our attorneys will help you understand the often confusing PERA disability law and will work to secure benefits on your behalf. Call us today!