Thursday, August 23, 2012

MN PERA Duty Disability Application Tips

Police Officers and Firefighters in the state of Minnesota are generally covered for disability and retirement benefits under the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) Police and Fire Plan. 

 Minnesota firefighters or police officers who sustain injuries in the line of duty are generally eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and/or rehabilitation benefits.

A firefighter or police officer may also be eligible for PERA duty disability if his or her injury results in a disability that is expected to prevent that individual from performing his or her normal duties for a period of at least year, and that the disability is the direct result of an injury sustained during the performance of duties that are 1) specific to protecting safety or property, and that 2) present inherent dangers specific to police officers or firefighters.

PERA Police and Fire Duty Disability benefits provide a monthly benefit at a base rate of 60% of the police officer or firefighter’s average high-five salary, until age 55 or for 5 years, whichever is longer. Duty disability benefits are non-taxable until age 55, and duty disability beneficiaries are also eligible for continued health insurance benefits in accordance with Minnesota Statute § 299A.465.

Unfortunately, applying for PERA duty disability benefits is not always as simple and straightforward as it should be. Making mistakes during the application process can result in substantial delays in your receipt of benefits, or it can even end up costing you thousands of dollars’ worth of benefits.

It's a lot cheaper and faster to get your application right the first time, rather than having to appeal an adverse determination to get the benefits you're entitled to. If you’re applying for PERA duty disability benefits on your own, here are some tips to increase your chances of success:
  1. Read the legal requirements, set forth in Minn. Stat. §353.656, Subd. 1, Minn. Stat. §353.01, Subd. 41, and Minn. Stat. §353.031, and make sure you understand exactly what you have to show to PERA in order to qualify for benefits. Keep these requirements in mind when you’re completing the application and providing supporting documentation. 
  2. If you are over the age of 50, and you have an injury or disability that may prevent you from returning to full duty, or may end your career early, evaluate whether you may be eligible for duty disability benefits. You cannot apply for PERA duty disability benefits if you are over the age of 55 and have in excess of 20 years of service. 
  3. Make sure you know what kind of doctors you need to complete your medical reports, and how many reports you need. Make sure you know what those reports need to say in order to support your application. 
  4. If your injury occurred more than two years prior to your application for duty disability benefits, you will need to show proof that you cannot perform the duties you were expected to perform in the 90 days preceding your application. 
  5. You must submit your application for PERA duty disability within 18 months of terminating public service. Don't wait too long to apply! 
Meuser & Associate has proudly represented dozens and dozens of police officers and firefighters all over the state of Minnesota in conjunction with their claims for duty disability benefits. If you are an injured firefighter or police officer in the state of Minnesota, we strongly encourage you to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about the benefits you may be eligible for, including workers’ compensation benefits, PERA disability benefits, and/or continuation of health insurance benefits.

Here are some examples of our recent PERA duty disability successes:
  • We secured PERA duty disability benefits for a police officer who developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his involvement in number of extremely traumatic events. His application was originally denied, and after we put together substantial medical evidence in support of his claim, PERA reversed its determination on appeal, awarding him duty disability benefits. 
  • We secured MSRS duty disability benefits on behalf of a Minnesota State Conservation Officer for injuries to his neck, elbow, shoulder, and back that he sustained during a motor vehicle collision while he worked for the State Patrol several years earlier. He was also awarded continued health insurance benefits. 
  • We secured PERA duty disability benefits for a firefighter who sustained a stroke while at the scene of a house fire. 
  • We secured an award of PERA duty disability benefits and continued health insurance benefits on behalf of a firefighter who sustained a back injury during the course of a warehouse fire. His application was initially denied, and after a hearing before an administrative law judge, PERA reversed its determination and awarded him duty disability benefits. 
 Read more about applying for PERA duty disability benefits.

To schedule a free, no-obligation legal consultation with Jen or Ron to learn more about your eligibility for Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits and PERA duty disability benefits, call us at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Social Security and Minnesota Workers' Comp

Individuals who sustain on-the-job injuries in Minnesota are generally eligible for various workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and/or rehabilitation benefits. If an individual’s injury is severe and prevents that individual from working for an extended period of time, he or she may also be eligible for Social Security Disability or Social Security Supplemental Insurance. 

At Meuser & Associate, we evaluate every workers’ compensation case to determine if there are additional benefits available to that injured worker, including social security benefits. My colleague, Jason Emery of Greeman Toomey PLLC has been kind enough to write a guest article for this blog providing some information about the types of Social Security benefits available and what it takes to qualify for those benefits.

"The Social Security disability process exists in order to provide assistance to individuals who are unable to work due to a physical or mental impairment or a combination of both. 

The Social Security Administration defines disability (for adults) as “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 

In other words, if you have been unable to work for at least 12 months due to a severe impairment, or expect to be unable to work for 12 months, you may be eligible to receive benefits. 

There are several different programs available to individuals who qualify. The two primary types of programs people qualify for are Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

Individuals who have paid into Social Security through taxes in the past may qualify for Disability Insurance Benefits if they have paid FICA taxes for at least five out of the last ten years. The amount an individual will be entitled to under this program will be determined by how much an individual has paid into the system. The Social Security Administration typically mails taxpayers a statement every year around their birthdays indicating how much they would receive if they were to be found disabled. 

Supplemental Security Income benefits are available to individuals who lack significant resources. Typically, an individual who is applying for SSI benefits cannot have more than $2,000 in resources and a couple cannot have resources in excess of $3,000 if one of the partners is applying for SSI benefits. The Social Security Administration will consider things such as cash, bank accounts, stocks, U.S. savings bonds, land, life insurance, personal property, vehicles and anything else which could be changed to cash in determining a person’s or a couple’s resources. The maximum monthly payment for SSI benefits in 2012 is $698 for an individual or $1,048 for a married couple (who are both found to be disabled). 

An individual can file applications for both Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income at the same time. This is called filing “concurrent” applications. The standard, or definition, for disability under both programs is identical. If an individual is found to be medically disabled under one program, he or she will be found disabled under the other program as well. However, a person generally cannot receive Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income for the same time period. Rather, the Social Security Administration will determine which amount is greater and issue that payment. 

The date an individual applies for Social Security disability has a significant impact on the amount he or she may be entitled to. Disability Insurance Benefits may be paid retroactively up to a year before an individual files an application. Supplemental Security Income benefits can only be paid as of the date of the application, regardless of when it is determined a person became disabled. Therefore, it is very important to file an application as soon as possible if an individual feels he or she may not be able to work for at least 12 months. 
To schedule a free initial consultation or ask about the Social Security disability process, feel free to contact attorney Jason R. Emery at Greeman Toomey PLLC at 1-877-332-3252 or by emailing"

For a free, no-obligation legal consultation regarding your Minnesota workers' compensation rights, call Meuser & Associate at  877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email. 


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hot Weather Work Safety: Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

During these dog days of summer here in Minnesota, outdoor workers need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat stress and how to treat it. Heat stress occurs when a worker's body cannot cool down quickly enough.  

Heat exhaustion can be dangerous and heat stroke can be fatal.  

The symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke include:

If someone is suffering heat exhaustion or heat stroke, the following steps should be taken: 

You can take steps to avoid heat stress injuries such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke, including:
  • Learning the signs and symptoms of heat stress. 
  • Drinking plenty of water or electrolyte drinks. 
  • Avoiding heavy work during the hottest parts of the day. 
  • Slowing down the pace of work and taking more breaks. 
  • Wearing light-weight, loose-fitting, light-colored, breathable clothing and a hat. 
  • Taking regular breaks in the shade or in a cool area. 
  • Avoiding alcoholic beverages or drinks with caffeine before or during work. 
  • Keeping an eye on co-workers for symptoms of heat stress. 
  • If you start to feel ill, stop what you’re doing immediately, and take steps to cool down. Tell your supervisor. 
If you’ve sustained a heat-related injury on the job in Minnesota that required medical attention, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. To learn more about your rights, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

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