Qualifying for Duty Disability Benefits
In order to qualify for Duty Disability benefits under the PERA Police and Fire Plan or the PERA Correctional Plan, a police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer will need to demonstrate that he or she has a condition that is expected to prevent him or her from performing the normal duties of the position for a period of not less than 12 months as a direct result of an injury incurred during the performance of inherently dangerous duties that are specific to the position. See Minn. Stat. § 353.01, subd . 41 and Minn. Stat. § 353E.001, subd, 1.
If the application for disability benefits is filed within two years of the date of the injury, then a police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer will have to demonstrate that he or she is unable to perform the duties of the position that he or she held on the date of the injury. When the date of the disabling injury occurred more than two years prior to filing an application for Duty Disability benefits, a police officer, firefighter, and corrections officer must also demonstrate that he or she is unable to perform the most recent duties that were expected to be performed by him or her in the 90 days preceding the last day he or she performed services for the employer, under Minnesota Statute § 353.031, subdivision 4.
This rule will come into play if a police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer was injured more than two year ago, and he or she is currently working in a light duty position. If a police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer is able to work desk duty then PERA will frequently deny his or her application.
A Period of Not Less Than 12 Months
In order to qualify for Duty Disability, a police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer will have to show that he or she will be disabled from performing their normal duties for the period of at least one year. PERA will look at this requirement retroactively to the last date that a police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer worked full duty with no work restrictions.
A police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer will need to show that their condition was a “direct result” of an injury that occurred during the performance of inherently dangerous duties that are specific to the positions. This means that the injury has to occur while the police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer is working and performing duties that are specific to their position. Many times, the police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer will have a prior injury that is aggravated or re-injured on the job. The prior injury may have occurred off duty or many years ago. A prior injury will not prevent you from receiving PERA disability benefits. As long as your current condition is the direct result of a work injury, then you will still quality for Duty Disability benefits.
Also, injuries or conditions that develop as the result of repeated sub-acute trauma over time fall within the statutory definition of Duty Disability. A specific episode, incident, or injury is not required to meet this standard. For example, a firefighter may develop a low back injury from wearing turnout gear and a self-contained breathing apparatus to every fire call, or a police officer may develop a back injury from repeated physical altercations with suspects. A condition caused by multiple events that involved the performance of inherently dangerous duties will meet the definition of Duty Disability. This is also true for police officers, firefighters, and corrections officers who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of repeated exposure to traumatic incidents.
Inherently Dangerous Duties
There is no specific rule for what inherently dangerous means. The term “inherently dangerous” implies that the duties a police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer was performing at the time of the injury have to involve a great personal risk to their safety. Some obvious examples of inherently dangerous duties would be situations that involve a dangerous weapon, arresting a suspect who committed a crime, or responding to an active fire. However, inherently dangerous duties will also include injuries that occur if you fall while responding to a service call, injuries that occur while lifting a patient on a medical call, or injuries that occur when you are doing training exercises. There are many duties that police officers, firefighters, and corrections officers perform that will be considered inherently dangerous.
Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A. has proudly and successfully represented hundreds of police officers, firefighters, and corrections officers throughout the state of Minnesota for PERA Duty Disability claims. Our knowledgeable attorneys will help you understand the often confusing PERA Duty Disability benefit law and ensure you receive the full benefits to which you are entitled. Contact us today for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation by calling 1-877-746-5680.