Article Series - Part 2
On several occasions, the lawyers at Meuser Law Office, P.A. have been contacted by individuals who have applied for PERA benefits on their own and been denied. When filing an application for PERA Police and Fire Plan or Corrections Plan disability benefits, there are several pitfalls that can occur when you are applying by yourself. Applying for PERA disability benefits is not always as simple and straightforward as it should be. It is important to know that there are some very complicated rules that apply. The laws governing these types of benefits are extremely complex and specialized. It’s easy to make mistakes and those mistakes can cost you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of benefits. Making mistakes during the application process can result in a denial of your claim, or it can result in substantial delays in getting your benefits. This is the second article in a series detailing some of the most common mistakes made when applying for PERA Police and Fire Plan benefits.
Click here to read this series from the beginning.
Submitting Incorrectly Prepared PERA Medical Forms
PERA requires that a member file two medical forms completed by their treating physicians in support of their application for disability benefits. These forms appear to be straight forward and simple; however, in reality, they are anything but simple. The questions can be confusing to treating physicians who often complete these forms in a hurry, sometimes without thoroughly reviewing your chart. PERA is very particular in assessing and evaluating claims. If one question is answered incorrectly by your doctor, often times due to the doctor not understanding the question, your application may be denied.
Another issue that frequently arises is that for physical injuries, at least one of your physicians must be a medical doctor. Your second form can be completed by a chiropractor. Forms completed by a Physicians’ Assistant, a Nurse Practitioner, or a Physical Therapist are not sufficient. For psychological injuries, one form must be completed by a medical doctor, and one of your forms must be completed by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.
Simply handing your doctor a blank form to complete, particularly if you have a complex medical condition or multiple injuries, is like tossing the dice in the hopes that your doctor will complete the form correctly. Moreover, if you submit an incorrectly completed form from your treating physician, you cannot “unsubmit” it. Read what your doctor wrote before you submit it! If the doctor made an error, ask them to fix it. Unfortunately, we do intervene in cases periodically where the member has submitted documentation that is actually harmful to their case – usually because their doctor misunderstood the disability criteria. It is far more difficult and expensive to “undo” previously submitted materials that are harmful, than it is to do it correctly the first time.
Failing to Submit Sufficient Evidence to Support Your Claim
One of the most common reasons we see for the denial of an application for PERA disability benefits is that the member failed to submit sufficient evidence to support their claim. In other words, the evidence the member submitted does not demonstrate that they meet the criteria for regular or duty disability benefits. The PERA Police and Fire Plan and Corrections Plan disability application forms are not entirely clear as to what you need to submit to prove your claim. However, at minimum, generally, you will need to submit your doctors’ forms, a complete set of your pertinent medical records, and a detailed description of how your injury or illness occurred. In some cases, a denial of an application for PERA disability benefits for failure to submit sufficient evidence can be remedied by submitting additional documentation in support of your claim. In other words, occasionally PERA will reverse its determination after you submit additional evidence “shoring up” the missing evidence on your claim. Again, its far faster and cheaper to do your application correctly the first time than it is to go through the PERA appeals process.
Meuser Law Office, P.A., has proudly and successfully represented hundreds of police officers and firefighters throughout the state of Minnesota for PERA Duty Disability claims. It is far cheaper and faster to get your application right the first time, rather than having to appeal an adverse decision to get the benefits you’re entitled to. The PERA lawyers at Meuser Law Office, P.A., handle PERA Police and Fire and Corrections 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 the attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. for a free, no-obligation legal consultation. 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.