Public Safety Duty Disability Bill Passed by Pension Commission

March 27, 2023

The bill, which represents a compromise between employers and labor groups, is aimed at addressing troubling trends around public safety duty disabilities related to post-traumatic stress disorder.

A bill aimed at curbing the number of public safety employees seeking duty disability claims for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was passed by the joint House and Senate Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement (LCPR) on March 20. The LCPR is the legislative body charged with vetting bills that impact public pension benefits and plans.

The bill previously passed on voice votes out of the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee on March 14, the House State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee on March 16, and out of the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee on March 9.

The bill’s next House hearing will be in the Ways and Means Committee.

The measure, HF 1234 (Rep. Kaohly Vang Her, DFL-St. Paul), represents the work of public safety stakeholders and the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) over multiple years. The legislation is consistent with the League’s legislative policy position on addressing duty disability issues and the League is supporting the legislation.

The Senate companion, SF 1959 ( Sen. Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato), is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

Learn more about the need to address duty disability trends.

What’s included in the bill

Key provisions in the bill would:

  • Require treatment for a mental injury before an employee can file for a related duty disability through the PERA.
  • Keep injured employees on payroll while they are receiving treatment for a mental injury.
  • Provide state financial support for employers to continue pay and benefits for injured employees while they are off duty for treatment.
  • Fully reimburse employers for the cost of a continued health insurance benefit for disabled employees or dependents of those killed in the line of duty if the employer has implemented mental injury prevention measures such as peer support.
  • Require learning objectives and preservice training that prepares peace officers and firefighters for the stressful and traumatic events that are common to their jobs and teach officers methods to process and cope with stress and trauma.
  • Adjust the vesting schedule in PERA so members would be fully vested after 10 years as opposed to the current 20.
  • Clarify the reapplication process for PERA disability recipients to require reapplication each year for the first five years and every three years after that.
  • Increase duty total and permanent disability benefits to 99% of the member’s average high-five salary.
  • Modify the current offsets against disability benefits for reemployment earnings by reducing one dollar for each dollar that the disability benefit plus reemployment earnings exceeds 100% of pay for an active member in a comparable position.
  • Eliminate the workers compensation offsets against disability benefits.

The legislation is the product of collaborative efforts between employers, including the League of Minnesota Cities, and public safety labor and management groups. The work has been informed by PERA staff as well as treatment providers.

The PERA provisions in the bill have drawn opposition from plan members who retired with a duty disability and their attorneys. They object to the offset provision that prevents retirees collecting a duty disability from stacking pension benefits and reemployment earnings before age 55. They also have concerns about the reapplication provision, which has been included by PERA as codification of existing practice.

The PERA Board of Trustees endorsed the PERA provisions in the bill before those provisions were added to the bill as an amendment. The PERA provisions do not in any way reduce benefits or make ongoing access to disability benefits more difficult for injured employees. PERA staff produced a fact sheet to counter misinformation being disseminated to law enforcement employees. City officials are encouraged to use this fact sheet in response to questions or concerns about the legislation.

View the PERA HF 1234/SF 1959 fact sheet (pdf)

Your help needed

The League is urging members to ask their legislators to support this legislation. Given it will travel to multiple committees, dozens of legislators will be voting on the bill. It will help secure needed votes if legislators are aware of the impact of duty disability trends on their local communities and taxpayers.

The League urges members to access the Public Safety PTSD Duty Disability Advocacy Toolkit, and view additional PERA-related resources. Members are encouraged to use the materials to learn more about the issue and how to communicate key information to legislators. The toolkit also contains a model resolution for consideration by city councils.

Read more news articles