What is The Illinois Disability Pension Code?
The Illinois Pension Code contains special provisions providing benefits to first responders. Those who qualify have become disabled and can no longer perform their professional duties. The Disability Pension Code contains provisions providing benefits for disabilities. These disabilities result from line-of-duty incident and not-on-duty incidents.
Qualifying for a pension requires the injured police officer or firefighter to submit a formal application with the pension board. The board will conduct a hearing and make a determination as to whether the employee qualifies for the line-of-duty pension or not-on-duty pension.
The pension board will decide whether the employee is qualified as disabled, and if it occured because of job duties. The injured employee can be represented by counsel for this hearing. For suburban and down state employees, the injured employee must qualify for certain elements. The injured employee must be present for three (3) separate independent medical examinations (IME) before three (3) separate qualified physicians appointed by the pension board. This will determine whether the employee is capable of performing his or her work duties, as well as the cause of his or her disability. In addition to these IME reports, the injured employee should be able to present any and all evidence at the hearing in support of the application.
Due to the complexity of this process, it is extremely important to contact a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to maximize your potential benefits.
In the Line-Of-Duty Disability Pension Benefits
For police officers and firefighters, a disability which results from an act of duty provides significantly better benefits than a disability which is not work-related. Injured police officers and firefighters outside the city of Chicago qualify for different benefits than those within the city. For those employed outside Chicago, disability pension qualifies an employee to receive benefits which amounts to 65% of their salary. Those inside Chicago are entitled to 75% of their salary while disabled. These line-of-duty benefits are in the nature of workers’ compensation as contemplated by the IRS. Therefore, these benefits should be tax-free. An employee is also free to obtain suitable employment elsewhere.
Not-On-Duty Disability Pension Benefits
Even if disabled firefighters and police officers in Illinois cannot prove that their disability arose from the line of duty, they still can be entitled to very generous benefits under the Pension Code. Injured police officers and firefighters are entitled to pension benefits equal to 50% of their salary. In order to qualify, the injury must make them incapable of performing their duties. Obviously, the occupations of police officers and firefighters are much more physically demanding than normal occupations. Thus, an injured officer or firefighter who collects these benefits should still be able to seek gainful employment. New employment will not interrupt their eligibility to receive ongoing disability pension benefits.
How We Can Help
There are multiple and overlapping laws which all provide unique benefits and all carry different requirements. It is extremely important for an injured police officer, firefighter or paramedic to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney. If you have become injured and you believe it may be related to your job duties, you should contact attorney Brent Eames for a free consultation.
Please reach out to us with any questions or concerns regarding your work injury, your case, and your options!