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The Ohio Legislature approved a new Ohio Public Employees Retirement System pension law in September 2012. The pension changes as set forth in Substitute Senate Bill 343 became effective January 7, 2013. Here are some of the important changes:
1. New standard to determine eligibility for a disability retirement:
The member must be mentally or physically incapable of performing the duties of the position the member held at the time the disabling condition began, "or of a position with similar duties." R.C. 145.35(E).
2. New injury/illness requirement:
"The coverage shall extend only to illness or injury that occurs before the member's contributing service terminates, or in the case of illness or injury that results from contributing service, becomes evident not later than two years after the date the contributing service ends. The coverage shall not extend to disability resulting from elective cosmetic surgery other than reconstructive surgery." R.C. 145.35(B).
3. New return to work rule:
"A disability benefit that has been granted a member but has not commenced shall not be paid if the member continues in or returns to employment with the same employer in the same position or in a position with duties similar to those of the position the member held at the time the benefit was granted." R.C. 145.35(G).
4. New leave of absence standard:
A member who has been granted a disability retirement after the effective date of the amendment is considered to be on a leave of absence for a period of three (3) years. R.C. 145.362. The old standard was five (5) years. There is an exception to the three (3) year leave of absence: "*** if the member is receiving rehabilitative services acceptable to a physician or physicians selected by the [OPERS] board, the board may permit the recipient to retain membership status and be considered on leave of absence from employment for up to five years following the effective date of a disability benefit."
5. New offset provision when the member also receives Social Security Disability:
"*** [I]f any year the total of a disability benefit recipient's benefit under this chapter and social security disability insurance benefit payment exceeds the recipient's adjusted final average salary, the annual benefit under this chaper shall be reduced so that the annual total equals the recipient's adjusted final average salary." R.C.145.363. However, this provision does NOT apply to law enforcement members.
6. New standard for termination of disability retirement benefits:
For any member who submits an application for disability retirement after January 4, 2013, the standard for the initial determination of disability is as set forth above in item 1. For members who have been granted a disability retirement, and for those who have been receiving a disability retirement for three (3) years or longer, will now be subject to an evaluation whether the member can not only return to his former position of employment (i.e. the member's "own occupation" from which retirement was originally granted), but also whether the member can return to "any other occupation." Specifically, the new law provides as follows:
"Regardless of when the disability occurred, if the recipient's application for a disability benefit is received by the system on or after the effective date of this amendment, the recipient has been receiving the benefit for three years or longer, the recipient was not a PERS law enforcement officer when the disability occurred, and the recipient is not receiving rehabilitative services acceptable to the physician or physicians, the standard for termination is that the recipient is not physically or mentally incapable of performing the duties of any position that meets all of the following criteria:
"(1) Replaces not less than seventy-five percent of the member's final average salary ***;"
"(2) Is reasonably to be found in the member's regional job market;"
"(3) is one that the member is qualified for by experience or education."
R.C. 145.362(B). This new provision does NOT apply to law enforcement officers. See R.C. 145.01(VV) for the definition of "law enforcement officer."
7. New definition of final average salary:
A member's "final average salary" is changed from the member's highest three (3) years to the member's highest five (5) years.
Please click on the below links for more information about the benefits provided by the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System:
(Please note the above statutory changes will apply to the information contained in the following pages.)
If you have further questions about OPERS Disability, then make sure that you get in touch with a Columbus workers' compensation lawyer from the offices of Charles Zamora Co., L.P.A. Our legal team can explain the changes that may impact your situation.
Our Ohio workman's comp attorneys are proud to represent employees who have been injured at their workplace. Contact us now for more information!