Timing is Important

One of the ways the retirement systems “nickel and dime” injured workers, is to make the effective date of the disability retirement as late as possible. Thus, if an injured worker is taken off payroll during a workers’ compensation case and months, or even years, later files for disability retirement, the retirement system will try to ignore those months and years of uncompensated time by making the effective date of the retirement the same as the date it received the disability retirement application.

For county employees, the unfairness of this practice was legislatively corrected by providing for an earlier effective date than the date the application was actually filed. Thus, if an injured worker delays in filing their application beyond the day after the last day of regular compensation, the application is deemed filed on the day after last regular compensation. But, once the injured worker knows that they cannot return to the actual duties they were performing, an effort should be made to get the employer to agree and file for the disability retirement, or the worker will have to file their own application. In any case, once the decision is made that you are disabled, prompt action on a disability retirement application is advisable.

Delay in filing your disability retirement application can be costly. The County Retirement Act provides that the effective date of your disability retirement benefit shall be the date of your application. The effective date may be earlier than the date of your application if you can prove that you delayed filing because of administrative oversight or you were unable to determine that your disability was permanent until a date after you last received regular compensation.

It may be beneficial to you to have your application effective earlier than the date of your application when you have a lengthy period where you received only workers’ compensation benefits or no benefits prior to the date you filed the application. That way you can recover back disability retirement benefits you would have received had you filed at the time you last received compensation from your employer. The earlier date, however, may decrease your monthly benefit so it may be important that an assessment be made whether actually obtaining the earlier date is most advantageous in the long run financially.

It is very important to know when you last will receive regular compensation. For example, you need to know when exactly your sick, vacation, comp time and holiday time will be end so you can time your application. Regular compensation includes contributions to supplement your workers’ compensation benefit from your sick pay, vacation pay and industrial leave compensation if your employer provides such a benefit.

This means that if you are off work and you continue to receive pay in the form of regular compensation from your employer excluding workers’ compensation pay such as temporary or permanent disability payments, and your doctor deems your condition permanent you need to immediately determine whether disability retirement is an option for you and apply. Otherwise you may lose valuable benefits.

Jane Oatman, Esq. 
Fighting for the Rights of Disabled Public Employees