The Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) is an organization that provides retirement and disability benefits for public employees. PERA has offices across the country, including one that supports employees of county and local governments in Minnesota. If you are employed as a public worker in Minnesota, you and the city you work for make contributions to your retirement plan throughout your years in the workforce.
Minnesota public employees put a lot on the line each day when they show up to work. Whether you work as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or paramedic, you often risk your safety to help your community. If you have sustained an injury due to your work as a public employee or have a disability that prevents you from working, you may be entitled to additional disability benefits from PERA. The experienced injury lawyers at Mottaz & Sisk Injury Law can help you receive the maximum amount of workers’ compensation and PERA disability benefits for your situation.
What Constitutes a Disability?
Different disability insurance policies define disability differently. Some policies may not list certain disabilities as eligible for benefits, which can be frustrating if it is indeed preventing someone from working. If you have a pre-existing disability or have developed one, the knowledgeable attorneys at Mottaz & Sisk can help you navigate the legal process to secure the benefits you deserve.
Many insurance policies define disability as the inability to perform your current job, while others describe it as the inability to complete any job. For PERA specifically, your disability must have lasted or be expected to last at least one year to qualify for benefits. However, each plan has specific requirements that you must meet for a disability benefit.
Examples of disabilities that disability benefits may cover include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Kidney disease and genitourinary issues
- Respiratory illness (COPD or asthma)
- Vision or hearing loss
- Back injuries or other musculoskeletal problems
- Heart failure
- Coronary artery disease
- Neurological disorders (MS, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease)
- Mental illnesses (Depression, anxiety, PTSD)
- Immune system disorders
- Skin disorders
- Hematological disorders
Who Is Eligible for PERA Benefits?
PERA Minnesota offers five different retirement plans based on job descriptions. Each plan and the included members are:
- General Plan: Employees from cities, counties, and school districts.
- Police and Fire Plan: Local governmental firefighters, paramedics, and law enforcement officers.
- Correctional Plan: Employees responsible for the security, custody, and control of correctional facilities and inmates.
- Statewide Volunteer Firefighter Retirement Plan (SVFRP): Volunteer firefighters.
- Defined Contribution Plan (DCP): Physicians, elected local government officials, city managers, and governmental volunteer ambulance service personnel.
Each plan has different requirements for disability benefits, but for all PERA plans your disability must be expected to last for at least one year. Let’s take a closer look at the eligibility requirements for the two largest PERA plans: the General Plan and the Police and Fire Plan.
If you are a member of the largest PERA retirement plan, the General Plan, you may be eligible for disability benefits if you cannot work due to a mental or physical disability. To qualify, your disability must be ruled as a total and permanent disability, meaning it is expected to last for at least one year and will prevent you from engaging in any substantial gainful activity, such as work.
Other qualifications under the General Plan include:
- You must be employed in public service and less than full retirement age at the time of your disability.
- You must have worked in public service for a minimum of three years or five years if you first became eligible for PERA after June 30, 2010.
- If you previously paused your public service at any point, a minimum of two of the years required for benefits must have been earned since last becoming a member.
- Your disability must have occurred before you finished public employment, but you can apply for disability benefits for up to 18 months from when you ended your public service.
- You are not eligible for disability benefits if you already receive a pension from PERA.
Police and Fire Plan
If you are a member of PERA’s Police and Fire plan, specific qualifications for disability benefits include:
- You must be actively working in public service when you become disabled.
- If your claim is filed within two years of the illness or injury causing your disability, you must prove you are unable to complete the duties of your job.
- If you file a claim more than two years after your illness or injury, you must provide evidence that you cannot perform your expected duties during the 90 days preceding the last day you perform work for your employer.
- You must apply for disability benefits within 18 months of the date you end your public service, but your disability must have occurred while you were a public employee.
- You are not eligible for disability benefits if you are already receiving a Police and Fire pension.
Why Should You Work With a Disability Attorney?
Applying for PERA benefits by yourself increases the risk of missing important information and losing out on significant compensation. Whether you are filing a disability claim for the first time or your benefits have been denied, an experienced attorney can help.
A disability attorney will have the legal knowledge to support your case so you can feel confident that no important details get left out of your claim or appeal. Having someone fight for your right to compensation is valuable and takes an immense amount of pressure off your plate. Contact a trusted attorney as soon as possible so you can receive the benefits you deserve.
Rely on Mottaz & Sisk When You Need Disability Benefits
Before applying for PERA benefits, it is essential to speak with a knowledgeable attorney who can successfully navigate disability claims. The skilled attorneys at Mottaz & Sisk Injury Law have filed hundreds of PERA applications for injured and disabled public employees in Minnesota, including firefighters, police officers, and correctional officers. We will work diligently on your case to maximize the compensation and benefits you deserve.
To partner with a compassionate legal team who will fight for your case, contact Mottaz & Sisk Injury Law to set up a free consultation toda