Monday, May 17, 2010

Avoiding Work-Related Knee Injuries: MN Work Comp.

Knee injuries are one of the most common work-related injuries we see in our Minnesota workers’ compensation practice. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, knee injuries send nearly 15 million Americans to the doctor every year.

From WebMD, here are six things you can do to avoid serious injuries to your knees:
  1. Don’t ignore knee pain. In general, if your knee pain limits your ability to engage in your normal activities, it’s time to get it checked out. A minor knee injury can turn into a major knee injury without medical care.
  2. Lose weight. Extra weight puts extra strain on your knees. Obesity increases your risk for osteoarthritis, a common and debilitating form of arthritis, and extra weight can cause existing arthritis to worsen more rapidly.
  3. Follow through with rest and rehabilitation. Properly rehabilitating your knee after an injury is important to avoiding aggravations or re-injuries. Folks often go back to full-duty work before their knee injuries are fully healed, leading to a subsequent re-injuries that are usually worse.
  4. Take care of your ACL. Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) account for about 150,000 knee injuries each year.
  5. Don’t overdo it. Knees are also susceptible to overuse and repetitive use injury. Kneecap pain and tendinitis are common symptoms of knee overuse injuries.
  6. Take care of other muscles in your legs, hips, and pelvis. When the muscles around the kneecap, hip, and pelvis are strong, it keeps the knee stable and balanced, providing support by absorbing some of the stress exerted on the joint.
Knee injuries can be debilitating, resulting in surgery and medical expenses, lost time from work, and permanent impairment. If you’ve sustained a work-related knee injury in Minnesota, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, including reasonable and necessary medical care, wage loss benefits, permanency benefits, and rehabilitation services.

Work-related knee injuries can be devastating. Contact Meuser & Associates, P.A., at 877- 746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to learn about your Minnesota workers’ compensation rights.

Visit our workers' compensation website at!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Continuation of Healthcare Coverage and Minnesota State Troopers

This article is a follow up to an article I wrote in February of 2009 regarding continued healthcare coverage for State Troopers under Minn.Stat. §299A.465.

All firefighters and police offices in the state of Minnesota are eligible for continued healthcare insurance coverage if they receive duty disability benefits as a result of an injury in the line of duty. Continued healthcare insurance coverage means that the employer must continue to pay the employer’s share of health insurance premiums. Given the skyrocketing cost of health care insurance, this benefit is worth thousands of dollars.

In July 2008, the Minnesota legislature revised Minnesota Statute §299A.465 to make the process more streamlined for disabled police officers and firefighters to receive continued healthcare benefits. Unfortunately, the Minnesota Legislature screwed up when it re-wrote the statute. They forgot to include members of the Minnesota State Patrol.

We represented a State Trooper who was disabled in the line of duty for his workers’ compensation case. He was approved for duty disability benefits under MSRS (Minnesota State Retirement System), but when he applied for continued healthcare coverage, he was informed that he wasn’t eligible for this benefit. We filed a lawsuit on his behalf against the State of Minnesota, arguing that State Troopers are in fact covered under Minn.Stat. §299A.465 and they are entitled to continued healthcare insurance, just like all other police officers in the state.

Shortly thereafter, due in part to our efforts, the Minnesota legislature revised the statute to include Minnesota State Troopers, who they had inadvertently left out in the 2008 version of the statute. In the meantime, however, our State Trooper client had to pay out of pocket for his healthcare insurance, and incurred additional expenses due to his high deductible. Recently, we reached a settlement with the State on behalf of our State Trooper client. The State agreed to reinstate his healthcare insurance coverage that he should have received as soon as his duty disability benefits were approved. They also agreed to reimburse him for the extra costs he incurred due to having to purchase his own healthcare insurance.

If you are a Minnesota State Trooper, or any police officer in the state of Minnesota, and you’ve sustained an injury on the job, contact Meuser & Associates, P.A., for a free, no-obligation consultation to find out what benefits you may be entitled to under workers’ compensation, PERA or MSRS duty disability, and continued healthcare coverage under Minn. Stat. §299A.465. Call Ron or Jen at 877-746-5680 to schedule a free consultation or click here to send us an email.

Visit our website at!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Can I Receive Workers’ Compensation and PERA Duty Disability at the Same Time?

Yes! In most cases, you can receive PERA disability benefits and workers’ compensation benefits at the same time.

Police officers, firefighters, and other public employees who receive PERA disability pension benefits are usually also entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

PERA allows a disabled firefighter or police officer to receive duty disability benefits plus workers' compensation wage loss benefits, up to a total of his or her salary at the time of the disability, or the current salary of the position, whichever is greater. PERA reduces the benefit amount dollar-for-dollar if a combination of the two benefits exceeds this limit.

If the disabled firefighter or police officer is able to work in a non-police-and-fire position, that individual can receive duty disability benefits plus re-employment earnings plus workers’ compensation wage loss benefits, up to a total of 125% his or her salary at the time of the disability or the current salary of the position. PERA reduces its benefit payment for $1 of each $3 earned in excess of those limitations.

If a firefighter, police officer, corrections officer, or other public employee sustains an injury or a combination of injuries that prevents that person from returning to his or her former career, he or she may be entitled to both workers’ compensation benefits and disability pension benefits under the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA), the Minneapolis Firefighters Relief Association (MFRA), the Minneapolis Employees Retirement Fund (MERF), the Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS), and any other local retirement association.

If you’re a firefighter, police officer, or corrections officer, and you sustained an injury in the course and scope of your duties that will keep you from returning to your former position for a period of at least a year, you should strongly consider applying for duty disability benefits.

Unfortunately, if you’re a member of PERA, MSRS, or any other local or state retirement association, you’re probably keenly aware of the fact that these pension funds are woefully under-funded. Because of this issue, in the past few years, the Minnesota legislature has drastically changed the requirements to qualify for duty disability benefits.

In years past, if you had a career-ending work-related injury, you would almost certainly qualify for duty disability benefits under PERA, any of the local relief associations, and under MSRS. Under the most recent law changes, however, you now need to show that your disability “is the direct result of an injury incurred during, or a disease arising out of, the performance of normal duties or the actual performance of less frequent duties, either of which are specific to protecting the property and personal safety of others and that present inherent dangers that are specific to the positions covered by the public employees police and fire plan.” Minn. Stat. §353.01, Subd. 41 (2009). The requirements for duty disability under the PERA corrections plan, MFRA, MSRS, and other local plans are virtually identical to the requirements under the police and fire plan.

In plain English, what this means is that a disabled police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer must now prove not only that the injury occurred in the line of duty, but that the injury occurred during the performance of duties that involve protecting property or safety, and that are inherently dangerous. What does that mean? In all honesty, no one is entirely certain. This version of the law hasn’t been around long enough for any cases to make their way through Minnesota’s higher courts.

What we can say is that in reviewing duty disability applications, PERA is taking a very strict reading of the statute, which basically means that they are frequently denying applicants who are injured performing duties that are not “hazardous” enough. Obviously, if you are shot by a suspect, or burned in a fire, those are hazardous duties. And, slipping and falling on a patch of ice on the way into work is probably not hazardous enough. But there’s a lot of room between those two extremes.

Here are some examples of police officers, firefighters, and corrections officers we’ve assisted with applications and appeals for PERA and MSRS duty disability benefits:
  • A corrections officer suffered a torn rotator cuff in her shoulder while hanging up an evidence bag doing intake of an inmate. She was initially denied duty disability benefits. We appealed, and PERA reversed its decision and awarded her duty disability benefits.
  • A firefighter injured a disc in her low back while lifting a heavy patient on a stretcher. She returned to work, but re-injured her back when she fell off a fire truck while doing inventory. PERA initially denied her application for duty disability benefits, but reversed its decision when we appealed and awarded her duty disability benefits.
  • MSRS denied duty disability benefits to a corrections officer who developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after witnessing a traumatic incident involving prisoners. We appealed, and MSRS reversed its decision and awarded her duty disability benefits.
  • A firefighter suffered several knee injures over the years, the last of which was sustained while he was carrying heavy fans around at the scene of a fire. We completed his application for benefits, and PERA awarded him duty disability benefits.
So why does it matter? Under PERA, MSRS, and other relief associations, the rate of pay for duty disability benefits is significantly higher than “regular” disability benefits. Over the course of several years, this can add up to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, police officers and firefighters who are awarded duty disability benefits under PERA, MSRS, or a local plan are entitled to continuation of healthcare coverage, which means your employer continues to pay their share of your healthcare premiums. That’s a huge financial benefit!

At Meuser & Associate, we believe that the vast majority of duties performed by police officers, firefighters, and corrections officers are hazardous, and we’ve successfully represented a number of police officers, firefighters, and corrections officers in both their workers’ compensation cases and for PERA and MSRS duty disability applications and appeals.

It is important that your workers’ compensation lawyer is familiar with the duty disability laws under PERA, MSRS, and other local retirement associations, otherwise, you could be leaving thousands of dollars in benefits on the table.

When we meet with a new client who is a firefighter, police officer, or corrections officer, we evaluate not only their workers’ compensation case, but we also evaluate any potential claims for PERA or MSRS disability benefits. We will give you an honest assessment on the likelihood of succeeding both on your claim for workers’ compensation benefits and your claim for disability benefits.

At Meuser & Associate, when we evaluate your claim for duty disability benefits, we always give you the option of preparing the application on your own. We’re happy to provide you with guidance to give you the best chance of succeeding on your application, while allowing you to complete it on your own. Alternatively, we can prepare your application and all necessary documentation for you. If you’ve been denied, we can also assist you with an appeal. If you applied on your own and received notice that your application for duty disability benefits was denied, you need to act fast! There’s a very limited time within which to complete an appeal.

Meuser & Associate, P.A. provides assistance with disability pension benefits on an hourly fee basis. For a FREE consultation, click here to send us an email, or call us at 877-746-5680 to speak with attorneys Ron or Jen.

Visit us at!

Related Posts with Thumbnails