Guest Post Meuser Law Office P.A. “PERA Police and Fire Plan Benefits: Don’t Apply for the Wrong Type of Benefit!”

Meuser Law Office, P.A. has proudly and successfully represented hundreds of police officers and firefighters throughout the state of Minnesota for PERA disability and workers’ compensation claims for in-the-line-of-duty injuries.

Coordinating all the different types of benefits available to injured police officers and firefighters is complicated. It’s easy to make mistakes, and those mistakes can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. One of the most common mistakes we see is when an individual applies for the wrong type of PERA Police and Fire Plan Benefit.

In addition to retirement benefits, Minnesota police officers and firefighters who are disabled from performing their regular duties may be eligible for a variety of different types of disability benefits, including:

  1. regular disability
  2. duty disability
  3. permanent and total regular disability
  4. permanent and total duty disability. 

Duty Disability benefits are available for police officer and firefighters who have sustained an injury or illness that is expected to prevent the member from performing his or her normal duties for a period of at least one year, and whose injury or illness incurred during, or arose out of, the performance of inherently dangerous duties specific to police officers or firefighters. Duty Disability benefits are payable at a base rate of 60% of the police officer or firefighter’s high-five salary. These benefits are non-taxable for five years or through age 55, whichever is longer, and an award of PERA Duty Disability benefits also entitles a police officer or firefighter to Continuation of Health Insurance Benefits in accordance with Minn. Stat. § 299A.465.

Alternatively, regular disability benefits are available to police officers and firefighters who suffer from a physical or psychological condition expected to prevent the individual from performing his or her normal duties for at least a year, which does not result from an injury or illness sustained during the performance of inherently dangerous duties. Regular disability benefits are payable at a base rate of 45% of the high-five, and they are taxable.

Total and Permanent Duty and Regular Disability Benefits are available to members of the Police and Fire Plan who meet the criteria for duty or regular disability benefits, and who also demonstrate that they are expected to be disabled from performing any substantial gainful employment for a period of at least one year. Total and Permanent Disability Benefits – are payable at the same rate as duty and regular disability benefits. However, Total and Permanent Duty Disability benefits are non-taxable for life; and both Total and Permanent Duty and Regular Disability benefits provide for a no-cost automatic survivor option.

Applying for the wrong benefit can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. One of the biggest mistakes injured police officers and firefighters make is applying for retirement benefits when they may be eligible for Duty Disability benefits. Over the years, we’ve consulted with several individuals who took an early retirement, when, based on the circumstances of their illness or injury, it’s clear that they would have met the requirements for a Duty Disability. That mistake cost those retirees thousands of dollars in tax advantages, as well as employer-paid health insurance coverage, and unfortunately, if an individual has already retired – we can’t undo it. Talk to us first before you take a retirement benefit!

We’ve also seen people that have applied for Total and Permanent Disability Benefits when they should have applied for the non-Total and Permanent benefit. While the Total and Permanent Disability Benefits may seem like a better deal – most people cannot meet the higher burden of proving that they are incapable of any substantial gainful employment, meaning that many people are denied when they try to apply for this benefit.

In addition, if you are trying to prove that you cannot work in any capacity to meet the Total and Permanent Requirements, you may very well be decreasing the value of your workers’ compensation case. It seems counterintuitive, but due to the complex coordination rules between PERA disability benefits, and workers’ compensation, it can actually substantially decrease the overall value of all of your claims to argue that you’re incapable of working in any capacity.

To make things even more complicated, there was an important Minnesota Supreme Court case that came down about two years ago that changed some rules about coordination of workers’ compensation with PERA retirement benefits. Under this law, there are some cases – under very particular situations – where it is actually financially more beneficial to forego a disability benefit and to take a retirement benefit – even if it’s with an early retirement penalty.

Meuser Law Office, P.A. is the only law firm in the state with extensive experience handling workers’ compensation and PERA disability claims on behalf of police officers and firefighters. Due to the complicated coordination rules between PERA disability benefits and workers’ compensation benefits, it’s easy to make a mistake and accidentally cost yourself thousands and thousands of dollars. Talk to us before you apply to make sure you are applying for the benefit that will give you the best possible outcome!

The PERA lawyers at Meuser Law Office, P.A., handle PERA Police and Fire Plan disability claims at all stages of the process – from the beginning of the application phase all the way to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. We strongly encourage any Minnesota police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer who is considering applying for PERA duty disability benefits to meet with us a for a consultation before beginning the application process. Experienced legal representation can help save you time and money in getting approved for the benefits you’re entitled to.

If you have a Minnesota Police and Fire Plan or Corrections Plan PERA Duty Disability claim, Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling 1-877-746-5680. 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.