The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CALPERS) and Your Workers’ Compensation Case: What You Need to Know

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CALPERS) is a California State Agency which is responsible for managing the pension and health benefits for California Public Employees, Retirees and their families. If you are an employee with the State of California or have an agency which contracts with CALPERS, you most likely are eligible to receive a CALPERS retirement.

Can I file for both a Workers’ Compensation Claim and a CALPERS Disability Retirement Claim?

Yes. You are able to file both a Workers’ Compensation Claim and a CALPERS Disability Claim at the same time. You are able to collect benefits from both systems at the same time.

Why can my Disability Retirement claim be better than Workers’ Compensation Claim?

If your disability or industrial disability retirement is approved, you’ll receive a monthly retirement payment for the rest of your life or until you recover from your injury or illness. Most workers’ compensation awards do not provide lifetime disability payments.

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What does my Workers’ Compensation injury have to do with my CALPERS retirement?

If you are a Public Employee and belong to the CALPERS retirement system, you may be eligible for a Disability Retirement. If you have sustained an industrial injury, there is the likelihood that you may have sustained a permanent disability that prevents you from performing your usual and customary occupation. As a result, you may want to seek a Disability Retirement.

For some Disability Retirements, the length of your employment is important. Some Disability Retirements require a vesting period. This means that in order for you to obtain a Disability Rretirement, you must have worked a certain number of years. Some have service credit requirements of 5 years and others have 10 years. You should contact CALPERS concerning your service credit times and your vesting period.

Does my Disability Retirement have to be Work-Related?

No. CALPERS offers Disability Retirements for non-industrial injuries. A regular Disability Retirement does not require that the injury or illness be job related.

Can my Workers’ Compensation Claim assist me on a Non-Work-Related Disability Retirement?

Yes. Workers’ Compensation claims generate medical opinions and evidence that may assist you in obtaining a non-service retirement. For example, a doctor in your workers’ compensation case may express an opinion that a particular disabling medical condition is not work-related. The physician, may, however, comment on the severity of the disability from that non-work-related condition. This opinion concerning the severity of the disability and its impact on performing your usual and customary employment may provide additional data for CALPERS to consider when making an opinion as to whether you are disabled. Also, your Workers’ Compensation Case may have allowed you obtain various testing such as MRIs or other diagnostic studies that may help prove up disability.

What is an Industrial Disability Retirement?

An Industrial Disability Retirement requires that you have a disability that is a work-related. You must be able to satisfy the legal definitions concerning disability and causation as prescribed by California Retirement Law.

Can my Workers’ Compensation Claim help in getting an Industrial Disability Retirement?

Yes. Your Workers’ Compensation claim will assist in proving up both aspects required to obtain an Industrial Disability Retirement. Your Workers’ Compensation case will generate medical opinions concerning both industrial causation and industrial disability. Your workers’ compensation case will also allow you to obtain an official finding of industrial causation via the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. Further, the Workers’ Compensation case will allow you to obtain medical records that may support your Disability Application as well. It should be noted that your Award of Workers’ Compensation does not automatically entitle you to an Industrial Disability Retirement. The medical evidence required to obtain an Industrial Disability Retirement must meet CALPERS’ definition of disability.

Are there Vesting Requirements for Industrial Disability Retirements?

There is no minimum service or age requirement for an industrial disability retirement. However, to qualify for this benefit, you must be employed in one of the CalPERS membership classifications.

Do I have to be Permanent and Stationary from my Workers’ Compensation Case before I file for my Disability Retirement?

No. CALPERS, in its information, notes that if you have a workers’ compensation claim, you should not wait until your conditions are “permanent and stationary” under workers’ compensation requirements to submit your application. CALPERS indicates that delaying your application for retirement may affect important benefits you may be entitled to receive.

Are there Enhanced Retirements?

Yes. If you’re a Patrol Member in Bargaining Unit 5 of the Department of California Highway Patrol, you may be eligible for an enhanced industrial disability retirement benefit. You must have sustained a serious bodily injury as the result of a single event and must be unable to participate in substantial gainful employment.

What are Membership Classifications for Industrial Disability Retirements?

It is recommended that you contact CALPERS concerning whether you are eligible. Also, you can contact your personnel offices to see as well. In general, Local safety and State of California safety, peace officer/firefighter, patrol, and certain State of California miscellaneous members may be eligible for industrial disability retirement if the disability is job-related. State of California industrial members must show that their disability resulted from a violent attack by an inmate or parolee of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, including the Division of Juvenile Justice, or a forensic facility of the Department of Mental Health. Most State of California miscellaneous and school members are not eligible for an industrial disability retirement, but would qualify for a disability retirement if it is determined they are disabled. There are some limited exceptions to this rule under the law. For more information, call CalPERS toll free at 888 CalPERS (or 888-225-7377).

School safety members are eligible for industrial disability if the disability is work-related. Local miscellaneous members are eligible only if the employer agreement with CalPERS provides this benefit. If your disability is not job-related, or if you are a local miscellaneous member and your employer’s agreement with CalPERS does not provide this benefit, you may be eligible for disability retirement.

Can I apply for both an Industrial Disability Retirement and a Disability Retirement?

Yes. If you applied for Industrial Disability Retirement, but your disability is not job-related, you may still be eligible for a Disability Retirement.

Should I consult an Attorney?

Yes. Regardless of whether you are planning to pursue a Disability Retirement, meeting with an attorney is important to explore your options are important.

If you would like a “free” consultation with a workers compensation attorney, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 25 years. Contact us today for more information.

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