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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- You must submit your application for PERA duty disability within 18 months of terminating public service. Don't wait too long to apply!
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.
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.