PERA Police and Fire Plan
Overview of Disability Benefits
A Minnesota police officer or firefighter who suffers from a disability that is expected to prevent him or her from performing his or her normal duties for a period of at least one year may be eligible for disability benefits under the PERA Police and Fire Plan.
Regular disability benefits are payable at a base rate of 45% of the member’s high-five salary. If the disability is the result of a work-related injury or illness, and the injury or illness was incurred while performing inherently dangerous duties specific to police officers or firefighters, the police officer or firefighter may be eligible for duty disability benefits. Duty disability benefits are payable at a base rate of 60% of the member’s high-five salary and are non-taxable. Additional benefits are available for police officers or firefighters with over 20 years vested in PERA. A police officer or firefighter who qualifies for duty disability benefits is also eligible for healthcare continuation benefits under Minn. Stat. §299A.465.
Total and permanent regular or duty disability benefits are available to police officers or firefighters who are permanently and totally disabled from all substantial gainful employment.
I applied for PERA disability benefits and I was denied. What do I do?
Contact us immediately. You have a very limited window of time within which to appeal. If you do not appeal the determination within the prescribed time period, you may substantially jeopardize your rights. Often, PERA will reverse its initial denial after the submission of additional evidence supporting your application or after a contested hearing before an administrative law judge.
I applied for duty disability benefits, but I was awarded regular disability benefits. Can I appeal?
Yes! You have a very limited window of time within which to appeal PERA’s determination, so it’s critical that you act quickly. It is common for PERA to award a regular disability benefit if there is insufficient evidence submitted to support that an individual’s disability meets the duty disability criteria. We are happy to provide a consultation to determine whether your claim meets the duty disability criteria. PERA frequently reverses its initial determination after the submission of additional evidence supporting your application or after a contested hearing before an administrative law judge.
Do I need a lawyer to file for PERA disability benefits?
It depends. You always have the option of applying for benefits on your own. When you call Meuser Law Office, you can be assured that we will always give you an honest assessment of your claim and help you determine whether or not you would benefit from our help in preparing your application. Unfortunately, it is very easy for individuals, even attorneys, who are unfamiliar with PERA to make mistakes under the law — mistakes which can cost you benefits and delay when you receive them. With the assistance of our experienced attorneys we will ensure that your application includes all available evidence to fully support your claim for benefits.
What happens if I am denied PERA disability benefits?
The first course of action is to file an appeal. Depending on what was submitted with the original application, sometimes PERA will reverse its determination based on the submission of additional evidence. Otherwise, a fact-finding conference may be held before an administrative law judge. In this situation, PERA makes a determination based on the judge’s findings.
I am over the age of 55. Can I still apply for PERA disability benefits?
Possibly. If you have less than 20 years of service, and you are over the age of 55, you can still apply for duty disability benefits. If you have over 20 years of service, and are over the age of 55, you may still be eligible for health insurance continuation benefits under Minn. Stat. §299A.465. If you have less than 15 years of service, and are over the age of 55, you can still apply for a regular disability benefit, but you may want to compare the regular disability benefit rate with your regular retirement benefit rate to see which is the better option. If you are struggling with an injury and are approaching the age of 55, it is critical that you explore your options before you reach age 55.
Is there a “minimum years of service” requirement to apply for PERA duty disability benefits?
No. For duty disability benefits, there is no “minimum years of service” requirement. You can be disabled the first day on the job and still qualify for duty disability benefits. If you are applying for regular disability benefits, you must have a minimum of one year of service covered under the PERA Police and Fire Plan.
Can I receive duty disability benefits under PERA based on a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that I’ve developed due to my work-related activities?
Yes. PTSD and other psychological disabilities are explicitly covered under PERA. Our firm has handled numerous PERA applications for police officers and firefighters who suffer from PTSD.
Can I receive both PERA disability benefits and workers’ compensation benefits?
Generally, yes. Most people who receive PERA are able to receive both disability benefits and workers’ compensation benefits. Coordinating both types of benefits can be complicated. If you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits and PERA duty disability benefits, your PERA benefit will be reduced dollar-for-dollar if you exceed 100% of your salary at the time of your disability, or the current salary for the same or a similar position, whichever is higher. If you are working in another job, but earning less money, PERA will reduce one dollar for every three that you exceed 125% of your salary at the time of your disability, or the current salary for the same or a similar position, whichever is higher. For recipients of PERA regular disability benefits, your benefit will be reduced dollar-for-dollar if the combination of your workers’ compensation benefits, re-employment earnings, and PERA benefits exceeds 100% of your salary at the time of your disability. Because our attorneys are experienced in both workers’ compensation and PERA disability, we can help you navigate the legal and procedural complexities to make sure you maximize your benefits from all sources.
Are there time limits within which I have to apply for PERA disability benefits?
You must apply for disability benefits within 18 months after your termination from public service. PERA disability benefits are payable retroactively up to 90 days prior to the date of your application, after you have exhausted all employer-based pay.
My work comp claim was denied or is in dispute. Can I still apply for PERA disability benefits?
Yes! We have successfully handled numerous claims for PERA disability benefits involving claims that the workers’ compensation insurer has denied or disputed.
Can I work in a different line of work and still receive PERA disability benefits?
Yes! With the exception of Permanent and Total Disability benefits under the PERA Police and Fire Plan you may work in almost any other field without impacting your eligibility for benefits. If you are working in another capacity, your PERA disability benefit will only be reduced one dollar for every three if you receive a combination of re-employment earnings, workers’ compensation, and PERA benefits that exceed of 125% of your salary at the time of your disability or the current salary of the same or a similar position, whichever is higher.
My disability stems from an injury I sustained many years ago. Are there any time limits I have to be aware of?
It depends. We routinely handle claims involving injuries which may have originated back two years, five years, even twenty years ago. There are specific rules that apply under PERA and MSRS involving injuries that occurred over two years ago. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, if your injury is more than two years old, you may need to demonstrate that you are unable to perform the duties you performed during the last 90 days you worked. Consult us for more specific information regarding the circumstances of your case.
Do all work-related injuries qualify for an in-the-line-of-duty disability benefit under PERA?
No. Several years ago, the legislature revised the duty disability requirements for all plans under PERA and MSRS. Prior to that, any work-related injury could qualify as an in-the-line-of-duty disability. Currently, under the PERA Police and Fire Plan, an applicant must show that his or her disability was incurred while performing duties that are inherently dangerous and specific to his or her position.
Does my employer have the right to contest my eligibility for PERA disability benefits?
No. As a rule, no court has recognized the right of an employer to participate in any proceedings related to PERA disability eligibility. They do, however, have the opportunity to submit information as part of the application process.
What is the difference between PERA Duty Disability benefits and PERA Permanent and Total Duty Disability benefits?
Duty Disability Benefits and Permanent and Total Duty Disability Benefits pay at virtually the same rate. The primary two differences in the benefits are that 1) Permanent and Total Duty Disability benefits are non-taxable for life, whereas Duty Disability benefits convert to a taxable retirement benefit at age 55 or after 5 years, whichever is longer, and 2) Permanent and Total Duty Disability benefits provide for an automatic survivor benefit at no cost to the beneficiary, whereas election of a survivor option for Duty Disability beneficiaries results in a reduction of the net monthly benefit amount. In order to qualify for PERA Permanent and Total Duty Disability benefits, an applicant must show that he or she not only meets the requirements for a Duty Disability, but that he or she is also incapable of performing any substantial gainful employment for a period of at least a year. There are some important workers’ compensation coordination issues that come into play when it comes to deciding whether to apply for a PERA Duty Disability or a Permanent and Total Duty Disability benefit. Meuser Law Office can help you decide which benefit is best for you and your family.
I have a workers’ compensation lawyer already, but he or she does not handle PERA disability claims. Can you help me?
Yes. While we generally prefer to handle both the PERA claims and the workers’ compensation claims involved on a case simply because of the coordination issues that arise, we can and do handle claims for PERA benefits where an individual is represented by a separate workers’ compensation attorney.
How much does it cost to retain your firm to help me with my PERA disability claim?
We charge a reasonable hourly fee for our services. We are happy to work with you as special circumstances may require to ensure our services are as affordable as possible.
How do I learn more about my disability benefit options under the PERA Police and Fire Plan?
Contact our office to schedule a free, no obligation consultation with one of our experienced attorneys today. At Meuser Law Office, we have successfully represented hundreds of police officers and firefighters throughout the state of Minnesota for workers’ compensation and disability benefits.