PERA Police & Fire Plan

PERA Police & Fire Plan

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.

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    Who is covered?

    If you are a police officer or firefighter, employed by a city or county, you are likely covered under and contributing to the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA). As a member of PERA, you may be eligible for disability benefits after sustaining an injury on-the-job.

    If you are a volunteer firefighter, a police chief, fire chief, or an elected Sheriff in Minnesota, you also may be entitled to disability benefits from PERA but the rules that apply to you may vary depending on your specific set of circumstances.

    There is no minimum number of service years required to apply for duty disability benefits. You can get injured on your first day of training and still qualify for benefits.

    Members over the age of 55 with over 20 years of service credit will not be eligible to receive duty disability benefits. Therefore, it is important to check in with a PERA disability attorney before you turn 55 to determine your options and ensure you are doing what is best for you and your family.

    Paramedics/EMS working for Hennepin County Medical Center are deemed “firefighters” for purposes of PERA and are eligible to receive duty disability benefits under the Police and Fire Plan.

    What are the benefits?

    Regular Disability Benefits

    Regular disability benefits are available to members of the Police and Fire Plan who become disabled as a result of a non-work-related injury, or if they are injured on the job but not while performing inherently dangerous duties specific to their position.

    Regular disability benefits are paid at a rate of 45% of Police and Fire Plan Member’s high-five salary. This is a taxable benefit.

    If you apply for regular disability benefits you must have a minimum of one year of service under a PERA Police and Fire-covered position.

    If you are approved for a regular disability benefits, you will not be entitled to continuation of health insurance coverage under Minnesota Statutes § 299A.465.

    Before you apply for regular disability benefits, it is important that you speak to an attorney determine whether it is best for you to apply for duty disability, regular disability or retirement benefits. Each of these benefits will have separate and distinct pros and cons. In addition, you may be eligible for a higher level of benefit, which may have a significant impact on your financial future.

    Duty Disability Benefits

    To be eligible to receive a duty disability benefit, you must show that: 1) you were injured while performing inherently dangerous duties specific to your job, and 2) that you have been or are expected to be disabled from performing the duties of your position for at least twelve months.

    There is a very complicated set of eligibility rules that apply to duty disability benefits. For example, the “two year rule”-if your injury is more than two years old, you will have to not only prove that you were injured performing inherently dangerous duties specific to that of your position-but, you will also have to show that you cannot perform the duties that you were expected to perform in the last 90 days you worked. This can be very problematic if you were working in a modified, light duty capacity in your last ninety days. Larger municipalities such as Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minneapolis and St. Paul frequently offer light duty positions, which makes your application for benefits more difficult for you to be approved for benefits.

    If you are eligible for a duty disability benefits, you will receive 60% of high five until the age of 55 or for a period of five years, whichever is longer. This benefit is non-taxable. If you have more than 20 years of service credit under the Police and Fire Plan, you will be entitled to an additional three percent for each year you have over twenty.

    For example, if Officer B is approved for a duty disability benefits after 25 years of service, Officer B would be entitled to 75% of her high-five (instead of 60%). The first 60% would be non-taxable. The additional 15% would be subject to applicable taxes.

    If you apply and are approved for duty disability benefits, you will be able to return to work in some capacity-just not in a law enforcement or firefighting position. You will be able to work and continue to receive PERA duty disability benefits; however, there are certain offset provisions that you should be aware of.

    Total and Permanent Disability Benefits

    This benefit is available to police officers and firefighters who are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a physical or mental impairment for at least one year. This benefit is paid at the same rate as duty disability benefits; however, it is non-taxable for life. In addition, if you are approved for Total and Permanent Disability Benefits, you are entitled to a survivor benefit at no cost.

    This benefit interacts with workers’ compensation benefits differently than the duty disability benefits. In addition, your receipt of these benefits will limit your ability to earn money in another job or career. Therefore, it is very important that you know and understand the implications of receiving these benefits before you apply.

    Survivor Benefits/In the Line of Duty Deaths

    If a police officer, firefighter, correctional officer, or another specified member, is killed in the line of duty, his or her survivors may be entitled to Survivor Benefits under PERA. There are specific rules set forth for public safety personnel who have died as a result of a heart attack, stroke or vascular rupture.

    If you are an active member of the fund and die prior to retirement, your spouse is eligible for a lifetime survivor benefit. If a service member dies as a result of inherently dangerous activities specific to his or her position, the benefit is 60% of his or her average salary in the six months before death. If the death was not the result of inherently dangerous duties or not specific to the position, the benefit is 50% of salary. This benefit lasts for the lifetime of the service member’s spouse, even if he or she remarries.

    Dependent children of a police and fire member are also eligible for survivorship benefits equal to 10% of your salary during your last six months of public service. Your children will receive this benefit until they are no longer a considered a dependent. This means until the child reaches the age of 18, or if he or she is a full-time student, until the age of 23.

    If the death occurs in the line of duty, the surviving family members can collect up to 80% of the service member’s salary. If the death did not occur in the line of duty, the family can collect up to 70% of the salary. There is also a minimum benefit of 50% of your salary.

    Why do I need a lawyer?

    PERA disability benefits are complex. There are a host of rules that apply that PERA and your employer won’t highlight for you during the application process. It is of utmost importance that you apply for the correct benefit and do so properly the first time. While it is possible to be awarded disability benefits after an appeal, it is much easier and cheaper to be approved for PERA disability benefits at the application stage.

    In addition, it is important that you have an attorney who is knowledgeable about workers’ compensation and PERA duty disability benefits. Osterbauer Law Firm has filed hundreds of PERA applications on behalf of injured first responders and knows how to coordinate your PERA with your workers’ compensation benefits to maximize the total amount of money you will receive from all sources.

    More questions? Please call us at (612) 334-3434 for a free, no obligation consultation.

    If you have questions about a PERA police and fire plan, talk to the team of experienced PERA lawyers at Osterbauer Law Firm. We can assist you at any stage. Whether you are in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis & St. Paul), Rochester, Duluth or Greater Minnesota, we will help you. Give our office a call today at 612-334-3434 or contact us online today for a free initial consultation, and we can arrange a free consultation to discuss your case.