Guest Post – Meuser Law Office P.A. “Employee Who Separates from Date of Injury Employer Due to PERA Duty Disability Remains Entitled to Wage Loss Benefits”

Accepting an award of PERA Duty Disability Benefits does not prevent firefighters, police officers, deputy sheriffs, and corrections officers from receiving wage loss benefits, including temporary partial disability benefits under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act.

A member approved for PERA Duty Disability benefits must separate from his or her position covered under the applicable plan, Police and Fire or Corrections, before receiving benefits. Members are encouraged to work in a different capacity. PERA Duty Disability benefits are not the same as PERA permanent and total disability benefits, members may work and still receive work comp benefits, PERA benefits, and income from a new employer. When the member begins working with a new employer and earns less than from the previous city or county employment, he or she will be eligible for temporary partial disability benefits from Minnesota workers’ compensation.

Temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits are wage loss benefits available to injured workers under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act who are able to return to work, but at a reduced wage because of his or her work injury. TPD is available for a total of 225 weeks but no more than 450 weeks after the date of injury. TPD is paid out at a rate of 2/3 of the difference between what the employee was making at the time of the injury or average weekly wage and the reduced earnings. Like other work comp benefits, TPD benefits are non-taxable.

In order to receive TPD injured workers must:

(1) Suffer a work-related injury
(2) Experience a loss of earning capacity as a result of that injury
(3) Be able to work, subject to restrictions
(4) Experience an actual loss of earning capacity

It is well settled law that “[a]n injured worker is not forever bound to his employer in order to retain his entitlement to benefits.” Boutto v. U.S. Steel Corp., slip. Op., No. WC06-288 (W.C.C.A. July 18, 2007). This means that an injured employee does not have to continue to work for the date of injury employer as a prerequisite to receiving work comp benefits. Anything less would force injured workers to be at the mercy of the employer.

This is especially the case when injured workers leave the date of injury employer as a result of PERA awarding PERA Duty Disability benefits. “The fact that the employee accepted an early retirement incentive from his employer for reasons unrelated to his injury or that he remains physically able to perform his previous job is not relevant to the question of whether the employee’s actual loss of earning capacity is causally related to the work injury.” Id. “[I]t is well settled that termination from employment for reasons not connected to the work injury does not preclude an award of temporary partial disability benefits.” Id.

Employers and insurers hate having to pay employees wage loss benefits who separate due to his or her PERA Duty Disability and will look for any excuse to cut off the payment of such benefits. Attorneys may have to file claim petitions or send letters to demand payment.

Meuser Law Office, P.A. is one of the few workers’ compensation law firms in the state of Minnesota that also handles PERA and MSRS disability claims. We’ve successfully represented hundreds of State Patrol, police officers and firefighters throughout the state for both workers’ compensation and PERA/MSRS disability claims. Sitting down with us for a consultation to learn more about your potential claims is a lot like financial planning. We can explain what rights you have and make recommendations to you in terms of how to best protect your rights to those benefits. The knowledgeable attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. can help make the process easier to navigate. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling 1-877-746-5680.