Age Limits for PERA Disability Benefits
Question - If I'm a police officer or a firefighter over age 55 am I still eligible for PERA Disability Benefits?
Answer - If you are over age 55 and are a disabled police officer or a firefighter you still may be entitled to a variety of benefits under the Public Employee Retirement Association plan depending on your number of years of service working in a PERA Police and Fire Plan covered position. The legislature recognizes that as a result of the physically demanding nature of police officers and firefighters, they retire earlier than members of other professions. Thus, age 55 acts as a cutoff age for a variety of benefits. While it’s best to assess your entitlement to PERA benefits with an attorney before age 55, just because you are over age 55 does not mean you are not entitled to any benefits.
Question - I am over age 55 and I have more than 20 years of service, what benefits might I qualify for?
Answer - You will not qualify for PERA Duty Disability benefits, but you may be entitled to regular PERA retirement benefits. You also may be entitled to the Continuation of Health Insurance Coverage under Minnesota Statute § 299A.465, if you otherwise meet the Duty Disability criteria.
Question - I am over age 55, but I have less than 15 years of service, what benefits might I qualify for?
Answer - You may qualify for regular PERA disability benefits, which are different than PERA duty disability benefits, or PERA regular retirement benefits. If you have more than 15 years of service you must apply for regular disability benefits before age 55. PERA regular disability benefits under the Police and Fire plan are disability benefits payable at 45% of a firefighter or police officer’s average high five salary for five years, or through age 55, whichever is longer. Unlike duty disability benefits, PERA regular disability benefits are taxable.
Question - I am over age 55, but I have less than 20 years of service, what benefits might I qualify for?
Answer - You may qualify for duty disability benefits, if you meet the other elements in the statute. Just one piece of the criteria is that you must be injured while performing an inherently dangerous duty specific to a police officer or a firefighter. The necessary criteria to receive duty disability benefits has been in a state of flux the past few years so it’s best to have a knowledgeable attorney who practices in PERA law evaluate your potential claims. Duty disability benefits entitle a police officer or a firefighter to tax-free disability benefits, disbursed at 60% of the firefighters or police officer's average high five salary for five years, or through age 55, whichever is longer, before age 55.
To summarize, police officers or firefighters who are over the age of 55 can still apply for Duty Disability benefits if he or she has less than 20 years of service, or Regular Disability if he or she has less than 15 years of service. Don't wait until you turn 55 to evaluate your disability benefits under the PERA Police and Fire Plan Duty Disability benefits. —If you are over 55, do not count out the very valuable additional benefit of Continuation of Health Insurance Coverage under Minn. Stat. § 299A.465.
At Meuser Law Office, P.A. we have had extensive experience representing police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and correction officers both over and under the age of 55 with varying years of service in each respective PERA plan. Call us today for a free case assessment and we will determine what benefits to which you may be entitled.