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Chapter 353

Section 353.656

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353.656 Disability benefits.

Subdivision 1. In line of duty; computation of benefits. A member of the police and fire plan who becomes disabled and physically unfit to perform duties as a police officer, firefighter, or paramedic as defined under section 353.64, subdivision 10, as a direct result of an injury, sickness, or other disability incurred in or arising out of any act of duty, which has or is expected to render the member physically or mentally unable to perform the duties as a police officer, firefighter, or paramedic as defined under section 353.64, subdivision 10, for a period of at least one year, shall receive disability benefits during the period of such disability. The benefits must be in an amount equal to 60 percent of the "average salary" as defined in section 353.01, subdivision 17a, plus an additional percent specified in section 356.315, subdivision 6, of that average salary for each year of service in excess of 20 years. If the disability under this subdivision occurs before the member has at least five years of allowable service credit in the police and fire plan, the disability benefit must be computed on the "average salary" from which deductions were made for contribution to the police and fire fund.

Subd. 1a. Optional annuity election. A disabled member of the police and fire fund may elect to receive the normal disability benefit or an optional annuity as provided in section 353.30, subdivision 3. The election of an optional annuity may be made prior to commencement of payment of the disability benefit or as specified under subdivision 6a. The optional annuity shall begin to accrue on the same date as provided for the disability benefit.

(1) If the person who is not the spouse of the member is named as beneficiary of the joint and survivor optional annuity, the person is eligible to receive the annuity only if the spouse, on the disability application form prescribed by the executive director, permanently waives the surviving spouse benefits under section 353.657, subdivisions 2 and 2a. If the spouse of the member refuses to permanently waive the surviving spouse coverage, the selection of a person other than the spouse of the member as a joint annuitant is invalid.

(2) If the spouse of the member permanently waives survivor coverage, the dependent child or children, if any, continue to be eligible for survivor benefits, including the minimum benefit under section 353.657, subdivision 3. The designated optional annuity beneficiary may draw the monthly benefit; however, the amount payable to the dependent child or children and joint annuitant must not exceed the 70 percent maximum family benefit under section 353.657, subdivision 3. If the maximum is exceeded, the benefit of the joint annuitant must be reduced to the amount necessary so that the total family benefit does not exceed the 70 percent maximum family benefit amount.

(3) If the spouse is named as the beneficiary of the joint and survivor optional annuity, the spouse may draw the monthly benefit; however, the amount payable to the dependent child or children and the joint annuitant must not exceed the 70 percent maximum family benefit under section 353.657, subdivision 3. If the maximum is exceeded, each dependent child will receive ten percent of the member's specified average monthly salary, and the benefit to the joint annuitant must be reduced to the amount necessary so that the total family benefit does not exceed the 70 percent maximum family benefit amount. The joint and survivor optional annuity must be restored to the surviving spouse, plus applicable postretirement adjustments under section 356.41, as the dependent child or children become no longer dependent under section 353.01, subdivision 15.

Subd. 2. Benefits paid under workers' compensation law. If a member, as described in subdivision 1, is injured under circumstances which entitle the member to receive benefits under the workers' compensation law, the member shall receive the same benefits as provided in subdivision 1, with disability benefits paid reimbursed and future benefits reduced by all periodic or lump sum amounts paid to the member under the workers' compensation law, after deduction of amount of attorney fees, authorized under applicable workers' compensation laws, paid by a disabilitant if the total of the single life annuity actuarial equivalent disability benefit and the workers' compensation benefit exceeds: (1) the salary the disabled member received as of the date of the disability or (2) the salary currently payable for the same employment position or an employment position substantially similar to the one the person held as of the date of the disability, whichever is greater. The disability benefit must be reduced to that amount which, when added to the workers' compensation benefits, does not exceed the greater of the salaries described in clauses (1) and (2).

Subd. 2a. Reduction restored; overpayment. A disabled member who is eligible to receive a disability benefit under subdivision 2 as of June 30, 1987, and whose disability benefit amount had been reduced prior to July 1, 1987, as a result of the receipt of workers' compensation benefits, must have the disability benefit payment amount restored, as of July 1, 1987, calculated in accordance with subdivision 2. However, a disabled member is not entitled to receive retroactive repayment of any disability benefit amounts lost before July 1, 1987, as a result of the reduction required before that date because of the receipt of workers' compensation benefits.

Any disability benefit overpayments made before July 1, 1987, and occurring because of the failure to reduce the disability benefit payment to the extent required because of the receipt of workers' compensation benefits, may be collected by the association through the reduction of disability benefit or annuity payment made on or after July 1, 1987, until the overpayment is fully recovered.

Subd. 3. Nonduty disability benefit. Any member of the police and fire plan who becomes disabled after not less than one year of allowable service because of sickness or injury occurring while not on duty as a police officer, firefighter, or paramedic as defined under section 353.64, subdivision 10, and by reason of that sickness or injury the member has been or is expected to be unable to perform the duties as a police officer, firefighter, or paramedic as defined under section 353.64, subdivision 10, for a period of at least one year, is entitled to receive a disability benefit. The benefit must be paid in the same manner as if the benefit were paid under section 353.651. If a disability under this subdivision occurs after one but in less than 15 years of allowable service, the disability benefit must be the same as though the member had at least 15 years service. For a member who is employed as a full-time firefighter by the Department of Military Affairs of the state of Minnesota, allowable service as a full-time state Military Affairs Department firefighter credited by the Minnesota State Retirement System may be used in meeting the minimum allowable service requirement of this subdivision.

Subd. 4. Limitation on disability benefit payments. (a) No member is entitled to receive a disability benefit payment when there remains to the member's credit unused annual leave or sick leave or under any other circumstances when, during the period of disability, there has been no impairment of the person's salary as a police officer or a firefighter, whichever applies.

(b) If a disabled member resumes a gainful occupation with earnings less than the disabilitant reemployment earnings limit, the amount of the disability benefit must be reduced as provided in this paragraph. The disabilitant reemployment earnings limit is the greater of:

(1) the salary earned at the date of disability; or

(2) 125 percent of the salary currently paid by the employing governmental subdivision for similar positions.

The disability benefit must be reduced by one dollar for each three dollars by which the total amount of the current disability benefit, any workers' compensation benefits, and actual earnings exceed the greater disabilitant reemployment earnings limit. In no event may the disability benefit as adjusted under this subdivision exceed the disability benefit originally allowed.

Subd. 5. Proof of disability. (a) A disability benefit payment must not be made except upon adequate proof furnished to the executive director of the association of the existence of a disability.

(b) During the time when disability benefits are being paid, the executive director of the association has the right, at reasonable times, to require the disabled member to submit proof of the continuance of the disability claimed.

(c) Adequate proof of a disability must include a written expert report by a licensed physician, by a licensed chiropractor, or with respect to a mental impairment, by a licensed psychologist.

(d) A person applying for or receiving a disability benefit shall provide or authorize release of medical evidence, including all medical records and information from any source, relating to an application for disability benefits or the continuation of those benefits.

Subd. 5a. Cessation of disability benefit. The association shall cease the payment of an in-line-of-duty or nonduty disability benefit the first of the month following the reinstatement of a member to full time or less than full-time service in a position covered by the police and fire fund.

Subd. 6. Repealed, 1993 c 307 art 4 s 54

Subd. 6a. Disability survivor benefits. If a member who is receiving a disability benefit under subdivision 1 or 3:

(a) dies before attaining age 65 or within five years of the effective date of the disability, whichever is later, the surviving spouse shall receive a survivor benefit under section 353.657, subdivision 2 or 2a, unless the surviving spouse elected to receive a refund under section 353.32, subdivision 1. The joint and survivor optional annuity under subdivision 2a is based on the minimum disability benefit under subdivision 1 or 3, or the deceased member's allowable service, whichever is greater.

(b) is living at age 65 or five years after the effective date of the disability, whichever is later, the member may continue to receive a normal disability benefit, or the member may elect a joint and survivor optional annuity under section 353.30. The optional annuity is based on the minimum disability benefit under subdivision 1 or 3, or the member's allowable service, whichever is greater. The election of this joint and survivor annuity must occur within 90 days of age 65 or the five-year anniversary of the effective date of the disability benefit, whichever is later. The optional annuity takes effect the first of the month following the month in which the person attains age 65 or reaches the five-year anniversary of the effective date of the disability benefit, whichever is later.

(c) if there is a dependent child or children under paragraph (a) or (b), the association shall grant a dependent child benefit under section 353.657, subdivision 3.

Subd. 7. Repealed, 1992 c 432 art 2 s 51

Subd. 8. Application procedure to determine eligibility for police and fire plan disability benefits. (a) An application for disability benefits must be made in writing on a form or forms prescribed by the executive director.

(b) If an application for disability benefits is filed within two years of the date of the injury or the onset of the illness that gave rise to the disability application, the application must be supported by evidence that the applicant is unable to perform the duties of the position held by the applicant on the date of the injury or the onset of the illness causing the disability. The employer must provide evidence indicating whether the applicant is able or unable to perform the duties of the position held on the date of the injury or onset of illness causing the disability and the specifications of any duties that the individual can or cannot perform.

(c) If an application for disability benefits is filed more than two years after the date of the injury or the onset of an illness causing the disability, the application must be supported by evidence that the applicant is unable to perform the most recent duties that are expected to be performed by the applicant during the 90 days before the filing of the application. The employer must provide evidence of the duties that are expected to be performed by the applicant during the 90 days before the filing of the application, whether the applicant can or cannot perform those duties overall, and the specifications of any duties that the applicant can or cannot perform.

(d) Unless otherwise permitted by law, no application for disability benefits can be filed by a former member of the police and fire plan more than three years after the former member has terminated from Public Employees Retirement Association police and fire plan covered employment. If an application is filed within three years after the termination of public employment, the former member must provide evidence that the disability is the direct result of an injury or the contracting of an illness that occurred while the person was still actively employed and participating in the police and fire plan.

(e) Any application for duty-related disability must be supported by a first report of injury as defined in section 176.231.

(f) If a member who has applied for and been approved for disability benefits before the termination of service does not terminate service or is not placed on an authorized leave of absence as certified by the governmental subdivision within 45 days following the date on which the application is approved, the application shall be canceled. If an approved application for disability benefits has been canceled, a subsequent application for disability benefits may not be filed on the basis of the same medical condition for a minimum of one year from the date on which the previous application was canceled.

(g) An applicant may file a retirement application under section 353.29, subdivision 4, at the same time as the disability application is filed. If the disability application is approved, the retirement application is canceled. If the disability application is denied, the retirement application must be initiated and processed upon the request of the applicant. A police and fire fund member may not receive a disability benefit and a retirement annuity from the police and fire fund at the same time.

(h) A repayment of a refund must be made within six months after the effective date of disability benefits or within six months after the date of the filing of the disability application, whichever is later. No purchase of prior service or payment made in lieu of salary deductions otherwise authorized under section 353.01 or 353.36, subdivision 2, may be made after the occurrence of the disability for which an application is filed under this section.

Subd. 9. Refusal of examination or medical evidence. If a person applying for or receiving a disability benefit refuses to submit to a medical examination under subdivision 11, or fails to provide or to authorize the release of medical evidence under subdivisions 5 and 7, the association shall cease the application process or shall discontinue the payment of a disability benefit, whichever is applicable. Upon the receipt of the requested medical evidence, the association shall resume the application process or the payment of a disability benefit upon approval for the continuation, whichever is applicable.

Subd. 10. Accrual of benefits. (a) A disability benefit begins to accrue the day following the commencement of disability, 90 days preceding the filing of an application, or, if annual or sick leave is paid for more than the 90-day period, from the date on which the payment of salary ceased, whichever is later.

(b) Payment of the disability benefit must not continue beyond the end of the month in which entitlement has terminated. If the disabilitant dies prior to negotiating the check for the month in which death occurs, payment must be made to the surviving spouse or, if none, to the designated beneficiary or, if none, to the estate.

Subd. 11. Independent medical examination; duties of the medical advisor. Any individual receiving disability benefits or any applicant, if requested by the executive director, must submit to an independent medical examination. The medical examination must be paid for by the association. The medical advisor shall review all medical reports submitted to the association, including the findings of an independent medical examination requested under this section, and shall advise the executive director.

Subd. 12. Approval of disability benefits. Review of disability benefit applications and review of existing disability cases must be made by the executive director based upon all relevant evidence, including advice from the medical advisor and the evidence provided by the member and employer. A member whose application for disability benefits or whose continuation of disability benefits is denied may appeal the executive director's decision to the board of trustees within 45 days of the receipt of a certified letter notifying the member of the decision to deny the application or the benefit continuation.

HIST: 1971 c 297 s 3; 1973 c 753 s 72-74; 1975 c 102 s 20,21; 1975 c 359 s 23; 1976 c 329 s 28; 1977 c 429 s 63; 1978 c 796 s 38; 1979 c 216 s 19; 1981 c 68 s 23,24; 1981 c 180 s 16; 1981 c 224 s 96; 1983 c 85 s 2; 1Sp1985 c 7 s 15; 1986 c 444; 1987 c 284 art 5 s 14,15; 1987 c 372 art 1 s 7; art 9 s 20,21; 1989 c 319 art 3 s 22; art 17 s 14,15; 1990 c 570 art 11 s 9,10; 1991 c 341 s 23; 1992 c 432 art 2 s 19; 1993 c 307 art 4 s 34-39; 1993 c 352 s 5; 1994 c 463 s 1; 1997 c 233 art 1 s 42; 2000 c 461 art 3 s 23,24; 2002 c 392 art 11 s 52; 2004 c 267 art 8 s 20-25; 1Sp2005 c 8 art 1 s 14