Disability Retirement Pensions
When your life and career are interrupted by a serious medical situation, medical and financial concerns can feel overwhelming. It is vital that you understand the retirement benefits to which you are entitled and what you need to do to receive them.
What is CalPERS?
The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) was founded in 1932, and is the largest pension fund in the United States. It provides benefits such as health insurance, long-term care insurance, retirement benefits and more. Some jobs also offer disability and industrial disability retirement benefits for CalPERS members.
CalPERS offers a defined benefit plan where retirement benefits are based on a formula, rather than contributions and earnings to a savings plan. Retirement benefits are calculated based on a member's years of service credit, age at retirement, and final compensation (average salary for a defined period of employment).
Industrial Retirement formulas vary based on:
- Classification (miscellaneous, safety, industrial, or peace officer/firefighter)
- Membership category (state, school, or public agency employer)
- Specific provisions in the contract between the member's agency and CalPERS
What Types of Retirement Are Available Through CalPERS?
The following are the three basic types of retirement:
- Disability retirement for employees who can no longer perform the usual duties of their current position due to illness or injury.
- Industrial disability retirement for safety members, or members whose agency contracts for this benefit, who are unable to perform the usual duties of their current position due to a job-related illness or injury.
- Service retirement or "normal" retirement.
Police and Firefighter Disability Retirement
For local agency safety members—generally city police officers and firefighters—an industrial disability retirement pension certified to CalPERS by the employer is a benefit that must be negotiated or litigated in addition to the workers' compensation injury claim.
For county employees, such as deputy sheriffs and personnel covered for a service-connected disability retirement pension, an application must be submitted to the county retirement board and litigated if denied.
In many cases, a properly prepared retirement application and evidence package can result in certification of the pension benefit at the administrative level, thus avoiding prolonged litigation and expenses. However, a retirement application may be denied by the employer for other reasons, including personnel actions and political pressures. Attorneys from the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK) have the experience and knowledge to resolve or litigate these cases through all stages of the process (application, administrative hearing and appeal) to reverse or avoid a denial and recover the pension benefit.
CalPERS Disability Retirement Timelines
It is important to note the strict timelines and filing requirements connected to a disability retirement application. Many applications are denied due to incomplete or untimely submission. If you are an injured worker covered for a disability retirement benefit, it is important to immediately consult with an attorney to protect your legal interests.
GEK attorneys have decades of expertise helping injured safety members in Southern California with their public safety retirement needs. We are here to help. If you would like to speak with a GEK attorney about your legal options, please call 213-739-7000.
The following are additional resources and publications that you may find helpful.