Article Series, part 3
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 Minnesota PERA Police and Fire Plan or Corrections Plan disability benefits, there are several pitfalls that can occur when you submit the application 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 is easy to make mistakes and those mistakes can cost you tens or even 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 receiving your benefits. This article is part of a series detailing some of the most common mistakes made when applying for PERA Police and Fire Plan benefits.
Click here to read the first article in the series.
Click here to read the second article in the series.
Filing too Late
There are several timing issues that pertain to filing PERA claims and missing these deadlines can cost an injured police officer or firefighter hundreds of thousands of dollars. First, you must apply for a disability benefit within 18 months of your separation from public service. We do occasionally see people miss this deadline. Oftentimes people leave firefighting or police work due to health issues that they discover to be work-related only much later in time, most commonly cancer and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We have also been involved with at least one case where an individual was terminated by an employer based on an inability to accommodate the employee’s work restrictions. This employee had filed for and was denied workers’ compensation benefits and the case entered the litigation process, handled by another workers’ compensation attorney. In the meantime, while her workers’ compensation case was pending, she was repeatedly instructed to wait to file for PERA until after her workers’ compensation was concluded. By the time her workers’ compensation case was concluded, the 18-month window had come and gone.
Another timing issue that often arises is the need to be physically off the job within 45 days of your approval for disability benefits. Should you fail to be off the job within 45 days, your approval will be rescinded. Sometimes this means that you will need to separate from employment after you are approved.
A third important timing issue often encountered is the age and service limitation rules that pertain to disability benefits under the PERA Police and Fire Plan. You cannot apply for PERA Police and Fire Plan Duty Disability benefits if you are over the age of 55 and have in excess of 20 years of service. And, you cannot file for Police and Fire Plan regular disability benefits if you are over the age of 55, and have more than 15 years of service. It is important to note, however, that Minnesota police officers and firefighters who are not eligible for PERA duty disability benefits by virtue of the age and service limitations may still otherwise be eligible for healthcare continuation benefits under Minn. Stat. § 299A.465, if that police officer or firefighter otherwise meets the Duty Disability criteria.
Finally, if your injury pre-dates your PERA disability application by more than two years, there are additional requirements that you must meet. Specifically, you need to show not only that you cannot perform the normal duties of a police officer or firefighter, you also have to show that you cannot perform the duties you were expected to perform in the last 90 days you worked. This additional requirement can be problematic for police officers or firefighters who are suffering from an injury that occurred more than two years ago, and who are working in a light duty capacity with their date of injury employer. In short, it is more difficult and complicated to apply for PERA Police and Fire Plan disability benefits if your injury dates back more than two years.
Failing to Submit Original Documents
PERA Police and Fire and Corrections Plan disability applicants must submit the original PERA Medical Forms completed by their doctors. During the process of getting your doctors to complete the required forms, it is imperative that you procure the original forms with your doctor’s original signature. Unless instructed otherwise, your doctor may assume that giving you a copy of the completed form will be sufficient. Failure to submit the originals may result in delay or denial of your claim.
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 PERA 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 to.