Become Disabled - How to Apply
|Disability Defined |
Disability retirement is a benefit for which you may apply if you are unable to perform any work for which you are qualified (not just last or usual job) for a minimum of 90 consecutive days because of an injury or illness. For more information, contact PERS Customer Service.
Types of Disability Benefits
There are two types of disability benefits--duty and non-duty--as described below:
Duty Disability: If you are a PERS member and your PERS employment is the primary contributing cause of your disability, you may apply for disability retirement regardless of your length of service.
Non-Duty Disability: You must have ten years of PERS service time to apply for a non-job-caused disability. This period can include credit for the six-month waiting period to become a member, and a partial year may be rounded up if more than half the year was worked. For example eight years, six months, and one day of active membership may be sufficient to be eligible to apply for a non-duty disability once the six-month waiting period is added on. Also, if you were given credit for service time before your employer took part in PERS, those years would be included. PERS may consider up to 90 days of unused sick leave you had accumulated at the time you stopped working if your employer participates in the sick leave program. Please contact Customer Service to initially determine if you may be eligible to apply for a non-duty disability.
Upon applying for either a duty or non-duty disability and being approved for benefits, your benefit calculation uses the same PERS creditable service time you would have received had you worked to age 58 for general service Tier One and Tier Two members and age 55 for police officers and firefighters.
Applying for Disability Benefits
If you meet the general requirements for disability, you should contact PERS Customer Service at 503-598-7377 or toll free at 888-320-7377 and request an Application for Disability Retirement. However, you cannot submit your application until you actually stop working.
You will also receive a disability Q & A with frequently asked questions and answers and a fact sheet on returning to work. If you anticipate being disabled for at least 90 consecutive days, you can apply during the 90-day period; you need not wait until the 90-day requirement has been met. You may also apply when on a paid leave, but disability payments cannot be made for any month in which you received salary or paid leave benefits from your employer, exclusive of a cash payoff of accrued vacation or compensatory time.
Upon receipt of the completed forms, PERS will contact your doctor(s) to obtain information. PERS staff may also request information from your employer, previous employers, workers´ compensation, or private insurance companies. The PERS staff and medical advisor will review this information and make a recommendation to the PERS executive director, who acts for the PERS Board. If your disability retirement is approved, you will receive an approval packet.
The benefit payment process begins once you have submitted the required forms. Your employer also has mandatory forms that PERS must receive before it can pay benefits. Benefits are effective the first of the month following the last month in which you receive salary from your employer (exclusive of vacation or compensatory payoffs), and no benefits can be paid until you have been physically off the job for 90 consecutive days. After the 90-day period, however, you may have benefits retroactive to your effective retirement date if no salary has been paid for that time.
Options for Disabled Members
You have the same choice of payment options as if you had applied for service retirement except that you may not choose a lump-sum settlement option. You have 60 days from the date of the first benefit payment to change your option.
The option you choose will apply only to the time you are receiving disability retirement benefits. If you are no longer disabled and your disability payments stop, you must then select a retirement option when you later apply for service retirement. If you continue to be eligible for disability retirement until you reach normal retirement age (58 for Tier One general service members, 60 for Tier Two general service members, and 55 for police officers and firefighters), your disability retirement will continue for life under the option selected, even if you later cease to be disabled unless you return to PERS-qualifying employment.
If you qualify for disability retirement, you are guaranteed a minimum benefit of $100 per month (as computed under retirement Option 1).
Purchase of Retirement Credit for Disability Time
The law allows a member who received a PERS disability retirement allowance or workers´ compensation benefits under ORS Chapter 656 after January 1, 1985, to receive service retirement credit for that period if the member returns to employment with a PERS-participating employer after the period of disability and subsequently applies for a service retirement.
If your disability was due to a job-caused injury or illness, the cost of the additional retirement service credit is charged to your employer at the time of injury.
If you wish to restore creditable service for the period of disability and the disability was not job-caused, you must pay the full cost of the anticipated lifetime monthly benefit increase. This purchase is available when no other creditable service time has been given for that time period. The full cost, whether paid by your employer or you, only restores service time. No funds are placed in the your account.
Exams and Work Limits
To determine your eligibility for continued disability benefits, PERS is required, by law, to perform periodic reviews of your continued eligibility for benefits until you reach normal retirement age. PERS will also contact the Oregon Employment Department to determine if you are working and may request a copy of your annual tax returns.
If You Recover
If you recover from your disability before reaching normal retirement age, or if you return to a full-time PERS-qualifying position, your disability benefits will be stopped. Your PERS member account will be adjusted to show the same balance that was there when your disability first became effective (your effective date for disability retirement). You do not receive creditable service time when receiving disability benefits. However, if you return to work with a PERS-participating employer, your service time may be restored if you or your employer pays the full cost to purchase your disability time.
Return to Work
In some circumstances members can work and still receive disability retirement benefits. Refer to the Disabled Members Who Return to Work fact sheet for more information. If you return to work in any capacity, you must notify PERS of the date and place of employment within 30 days. Your benefit may be reduced by earned income.
Workers´ Compensation Offsets
Disability retirement benefits for Tier Two members may be offset by any total disability (temporary or permanent) payments from workers´ compensation. The offset will be the amount by which the two monthly payments together exceed your monthly salary at the time of disability.