Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association (LACERA) and Your Workers’ Compensation Case: What You Need to Know?

Certain public employees do not participate in the Federal Social Security Program. Rather, they participate in other retirement systems. Some of these retirement systems are administrated by the State of California, Counties, or Cities and/or Municipalities.

In Los Angeles County, there is the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association (LACERA.) LACERA, besides administering the managing the retirement fund for Los Angeles County Employees. LACERA also handles other Districts such as the Little Lake Cemetery District, Local Agency Formation Commission, the Los Angeles County Offices of Education (LACOE) and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD).

There are essentially two classes of members: general members and safety members. Safety Members are essentially firefighters and sworn law enforcement personnel.

Retirements can be based upon service time. Retirements can also be based upon disability. Disability retirements, depending upon the individual’s retirement class, can further be divided into two classes: service-connected (aka industrial) and non-service connected (aka non-industrial.)

LACERA provides the following definitions: Service-connected disability (SCD) is a permanent disability resulting from an illness or injury directly related to County employment. The LACERA Board of Retirement (BOR) must find a direct causational link to the workplace in order to grant a service-connected disability retirement. A non-service-connected disability (NSCD) is defined as a permanent disability resulting from an illness or injury not related to County employment.

Pension law is exceedingly complicated. There are many issues that can arise. There are two essential issues that come up with disability retirements. The first is the issue of whether the worker is disabled. Disability has been interpreted as one being substantial inability of the applicant to perform his/her usual duties. Further, if service disability retirement is sought, then industrial causation is defined as that it is the result of injury or disease arising out of and in the course of the member’s employment, and such employment contributes substantially to such incapacity.

Again, Retirement law, eligibility, and deadlines for retirement are very complicated. This article is merely informational and only intended to address the surface of the threshold issues.

I have a Workers’ Compensation Claim, Should I pursue a LACERA retirement?

Maybe. If you believe that you can no longer do your job, then you must give strong consideration towards pursuing one. First, it is recommended that you contact LACERA and meet with a representative. Appointments are readily available. Their offices are in Pasadena. The representative will go through with you all of the possibilities concerning retirement. If you are considering a disability or service-connected disability retirement, you should bring that to that attention of the representative so that you can get an accurate work-up.

Second, I recommend that you meet with an attorney with retirement knowledge so that you can analyze the facts of your disability and whether you would be able to satisfy each requirement.

Are there some employees who are not eligible for disability retirements?

Yes. Plan E members or those who have withdrawn their retirement contributions are not eligible. . However, all general members may apply for disability benefits under the County’s Long-Term Disability and Survivor Benefit Plan. It is advised that an individual check with their Department for details regarding County-sponsored and/or administered insurance benefits.

If I can’t do my job, should I quit my job and file for retirement? Should I cash out my retirement?

Absolutely not. You should consult both LACERA and a lawyer before taking any action concerning your employment status or cashing out your retirement. Terminating your employment can serious repercussions.

Are there time eligibility requirements to become eligible for disability retirements?

Yes. For service connected disability (SCD) a contributory member who becomes permanently incapacitated and unable to perform his or her regular job duties due to a SCD may apply to receive a SCD retirement allowance. There is no age or service requirement.

For non-service connected disability (NSCD) a contributory member of any age who has at least five years (60 months) of County (or County and reciprocal) service credit and becomes permanently incapacitated and unable to perform his or her regular job duties due to an NSCD may apply to receive an NSCD retirement allowance.

Does winning my Workers’ Compensation case mean that I win my retirement case?

No. As stated above, LACERA has different rules with respect to both industrial causation and as to disability. Medical providers are required to express opinions with respect to retirement law. Under Workers’ Compensation Law, the medical providers only have to express an opinion within reasonable medical probability that the injury arose out of and in the course of employment.

A retirement case involves the development of additional medical-legal opinion to satisfy the burdens for disability retirements. This may include the generation of additional evidence in order to satisfy the requirements of LACERA.

Can a Workers’ Compensation Case help in obtaining a Disability Retirement?

Yes. The Workers’ Compensation system allows for an injured worker to obtain evidence that will assist them in providing their retirement case. The Workers’ Compensation system allows for injured workers to obtain diagnostic testing such as MRIs and EMG nerve studies which can prove both an injury and the extent of the injury. Workers’ Compensation allows injured workers to obtain medical records which can also assist. Further, the Workers’ Compensation system may provide the injured worker a treating physician who can fill out documents that are required to complete the LACERA application. Further, that physician may be called to testify at a LACERA hearing.

With more than 23 years of expertise in defending workers’ rights, the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, A Professional Law Corporation, is here to assist. If you have any questions concerning your rights, please do not hesitate to contact our offices. Please contact us today concerning any workers’ compensation questions or issues.