Benefits & Appeals for OPERS Disability
Columbus Worker's Comp Lawyer
If you are a member of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System ("OPERS" or "PERS"), you are eligible for one of two disability programs: (1) the original plan, or (2) the revised plan.
Employees who had contributions on deposit with OPERS on July 29, 1992 had a one-time opportunity to select coverage under one of these programs. Those employees hired after July 29, 1992 are covered only under the revised plan. The following is a summary of the common features of the two plans. The differences are also explained.
If the Retirement Board approves your application, the disability benefit is effective the first day of the month following your service termination provided you otherwise qualify.
Under the Original Plan, the amount of your disability allowance is based on your "final average salary" and years of service with OPERS, plus the length of time between the effective date of the disability benefit and age 60. For instance, if you are age 56 when granted a disability benefit and have 16 years of service credit, 20 years of service credit will be used in determining the amount of allowance instead of 16 years.
Under the Original Plan, the disability benefit will be at least 30 percent, but not more than 75 percent of your final average salary.
Under the Original Plan, the benefit payment is fully taxable until minimum retirement age, at which time a specified dollar amount, representing the return of taxed contributions, is provided on a monthly tax-free basis. Law enforcement members disabled due to an on-duty injury or illness receive 30 percent of their benefit payments tax-free.
Under the Revised Plan, the disability benefit is based on your final average salary and years of service with OPERS with no early retirement reductions, but cannot be less than 45 percent or exceed 60 percent of your final average salary.
Under the Revised Plan, the disability benefit is fully taxable as long as it is received. For a law enforcement member disabled due to an on-duty injury or illness, 45 percent of the benefit payment is excludable from taxable income.
OPERS will terminate your disability benefits if you are no longer disabled, if you return to public service, or if you choose to begin receiving an age and service pension, at your death, or at your request.
OPERS may require you to be examined at least once a year. If OPERS determines you are no longer disabled, OPERS will notify you that your benefits will be terminated within three (3) months. If you have received a disability benefit for less than five (5) years, OPERS will certify to your previous employer that you are no longer incapable of returning to work. Your employer will then restore you to your previous position, or a similar position, and salary unless you were dismissed or resigned in lieu of dismissal for dishonesty, malfeasance, misfeasance, or conviction of a felony.
If you return to public service and make contributions for two (2) years, you will receive service credit for the period of time you received disability benefits.
A return to employment with a private employer may affect continuing receipt of disability benefits.
Health care coverage is effective the first of the month following the Retirement Board's approval of your application, provided your public service has terminated.
OPERS will pay you an annual cost-of-living adjustment, depending on changes in the Consumer Price Index.
Under the Original Plan, the disability benefit is payable for life, but will terminate if one of the events listed above occurs. In that case, an existing age and service retirement benefit may be available if you are otherwise eligible.
Under the Revised Plan, the disability benefit is payable for only a definite period of time, depending on your age at the effective date of your benefit. For instance, if you are younger than age 60 at the effective benefit date of disability, your disability benefit is payable until age 65.
In the event OPERS denies your claim for disability benefits, Ohio Administrative Code 145-2-23 provides an appellate process you may follow in order to obtain further review of your claim. An appellate process also exists in the event OPERS issues a decision to terminate your disability benefits. In either event, it is prudent to obtain new medical evidence to support your claim, or a continuation of your disability benefits, since OPERS will be itself obtaining a new medical review or be scheduling a new exam based upon your appeal.
If OPERS denies your appeal, you have the right to file a mandamus lawsuit with the Tenth District Court of Appeals of Ohio, Franklin County. It is advisable you contact an Ohio workers' compensation attorney to discuss your options and the merits of a mandamus lawsuit.