Guest Post – Meuser Law Office, P.A. “PERA Permanent and Total Disability vs PERA Duty Disability”

PERA Permanent and Total Disability vs PERA Duty Disability

PERA Duty Disability benefits and PERA Permanent Total Disability benefits entitle qualified members to 60% of the member’s average salary over his or her five highest-paid consecutive years of service, which is the equivalent to a retirement benefit based on 20 years of service. If members have in excess of 20 years of qualifying service he or she will receive an additional 3% for every year in excess of 20 years.

Police Officers and Firefighters injured in the line of duty face advantages and disadvantages when deciding to apply for PERA Permanent and Total Disability or PERA Duty Disability benefits.

(1) Requirements

PERA Permanent and Total Disability:  Members must demonstrate that they were disabled in the line of duty while performing inherently dangerous duties specific to the position covered by the plan and are unable to continue working in substantial gainful employment.

PERA Duty Disability:  Members must show that they were disabled in the line of duty while performing inherently dangerous duties specific to the position covered by the Police and Fire Plan. Members may be released to work in another capacity but are not able to fulfill all the normal duties of his or her date of injury position.

(2) Survivorship

PERA Permanent and Total Disability:  If the Duty Disability is total and permanent, the member is eligible for automatic survivor protection until age 55 or 5 years after the disability occurs, whichever is later. Survivor protection means should you die the spouse will receive a portion of the member’s disability pension for a set amount of time.

PERA Duty Disability:  If the member is approved for Duty Disability he or she may elect a survivorship option, such as single life, 50% or 100%. The monthly disability benefit is then reduced based on the option to pay for the elected survivorship option, which then functions like life insurance for the disabled member. When the Duty Disability converts to a retirement benefit, either in 5 years or at age 55, whichever is later, then the member may re-elect and change his or her survivorship option.

(3) Taxation

PERA Permanent and Total Disability:  The base 60% of the member’s five highest consecutive years of his or her salary remains non-taxable for life; however, the member’s benefits stemming from service in excess of 20 years is taxable.

PERA Duty Disability:  The base 60% of the member’s “high five” is non-taxable until the disability benefit converts to a retirement benefit. Benefits attributable to service in excess of 20 years is taxable, even when categorized as a disability benefit.

(4) Workers’ Compensation Offsets

PERA Permanent and Total Disability:  If PERA approves a member for permanent and total disability benefits, he or she remains in disability status for his or her lifetime and the benefit never converts to a retirement benefit.

If the member cannot work on a substantial gainful basis than he or she will not be eligible for temporary partial disability benefits in workers’ compensation benefits.

The member would likely be deemed “permanently totally disabled” in the workers’ compensation context as well. Permanent total disability benefits in work comp are completely offset by PERA disability benefits. Members frequently receive more in PERA disability benefits than they would be entitled to receive through work comp. Therefore, if members receive PERA permanent and total disability benefits they may not be entitled to any wage loss benefits from work comp.

PERA Duty Disability:  If PERA approves a member for Duty Disability benefits, then he or she is able to receive wage loss benefits from work comp in addition to his or her PERA benefits.

The member may receive work comp, PERA, and work in a different capacity. If he or she earns less money than the member did before the injury, then he or she may be entitled to temporary partial disability benefits. If these three sources of income are over 125% of the members “high five” income then the PERA benefit is reduced a dollar for every three dollars.

If the member is deemed “permanent and totally disabled” in the workers’ compensation context, then the member’s PERA Duty Disability benefits are offset until the PERA benefits convert to a retirement benefit.

If you are considering applying for PERA Duty Disability or PERA permanent and total disability benefits contactthe attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. for a free, no obligation consultation. Each case is unique you may be sacrificing hundreds of thousands of dollars if you apply for the wrong benefit. Our knowledgeable attorneys will help you understand the often confusing PERA Duty Disability benefit law and ensure you receive the full benefits you are entitled to. Call us today at 1-877-746-5680.