Each day, public safety employees leave their families and go to work to protect ours. Be it police officers, firefighters, or others in our service, injuries unfortunately arise. The attorneys at Meyers and Flowers have years of experience representing public safety workers not only in work injury claims and civil actions, but in pension hearings as well.
Pension and Disability Benefits under Illinois Law
Protection for the financial welfare of public safety employees and their families is covered under several laws including the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA) and the Public Employee Disability Act (PEDA). In addition, the Illinois Workers Compensation Act (IWCA) provides benefits as it does for any covered worker who becomes injured on the job. The Illinois Pension Code (IPC) also regulates payment of benefits for public safety employees injured or killed in the line of duty.
Public employees who face physical and mental hazards unique to their job duties are recognized as needing extended benefits should they be killed or become disabled in the line of duty. Under PEDA, a disabled public employee is entitled to a lifetime pension of between 65% and 75% of their salary once a determination has been made that he or she can no longer perform their duties. PSEBA provides for payment of all health insurance benefits once the disability pension has been established.
These laws cover full time firefighters, police officers, correctional officers and probation officers and their families. Understanding employment rights, particularly in the public sector is very complex. Having a knowledgeable attorney who is well versed on all relevant laws and codes and how they interact ensures that all possible benefits are obtained for workers and their loved ones.
Public Employee Disability Act
Under PEDA a full time injured fire fighter or police officer will receive up to 52 weeks of salary, tax free, if those injuries were the result of their duties. This is over and above any other benefits they may have accrued such as vacation or sick pay, overtime or service credits. Following this, a disabled fire fighter or police officer will receive 65% of their weekly salary under either IWCA or Illinois Pension Code.
Timing is relevant to a declaration that an injury has resulted in an employee being unable to perform their duties. This affects payment of health care benefits as well as the timing on the initial 52 weeks of disability. Trying to comply with the regulations required to ensure qualification of these benefits without professional guidance is not recommended. Attorneys for the cash strapped municipalities are looking for ways to cut their costs and an unrepresented public safety employee is putting himself or herself at risk of losing legitimate benefits.
Public Safety Employee Benefits Act
This legislation exists to provide public safety employees and their families with health care benefits should they suffer a catastrophic injury while performing their duties. There has been much debate on the definition of ‘catastrophic’ since this is what triggers benefits under this Act. Public employees who wish to maximize their benefits should realize that language can made a difference of thousands of dollars in benefits. Retaining the services of an experienced public safety pension attorney who can navigate through the complexities of these requirements can make the difference between being financially secure or financially stressed.
Health Insurance Benefits
Under PSEBA, full time police officers, fire fighters, probation officers, correctional officers who are injured or killed as a result of their duties are eligible for full payment of their health insurance plan. This benefit extends to their family including dependent children. As this benefit can be a significant amount of money, municipalities often contest the date at which benefits should begin or if they should begin at all. In cases which have gone to the Supreme Court, often there are years of payments being contested and all of it hinges on what the Illinois legislature meant by the word ‘catastrophic’.
Meyers & Flowers are among the top attorney firms handling public employee and employment rights in Chicago and the State of Illinois. We understand the problems faced by balancing a municipal budget but do not agree that attempts at balancing the books should be at the expense of those who risk their lives to protect our lives and our property. We know this legislation cold and use the force of prior decisions on this point to get our clients the benefits they deserve.
Public Safety Pension & Employment Rights
Meyers & Flowers in Illinois is particularly committed to pursuing all benefits owed to those who daily risk their lives protecting the citizens of Illinois. This is a complex procedure that can be stressful for those not familiar with the process. If you have been injured on the job and want help with your case, call us to arrange a free consultation. We will be honored to help you.