About twice per month the retirement services division will hold hearings to determine eligibility for disability retirement. A typical decision will grant or deny a Connecticut worker disability benefits.
Zimberlin Law LLC represents state workers in claims at the Medical Examining Board and in appeals to the State Employees Retirement Commission (SERC).
The Connecticut state retirement summary plan description and C.G.S. §§ 5-169, 5-192p provide the definition of disability.
Definition of Disability
At first, disabled means you are permanently unable to perform the duties of your job. After you have received disability benefits for 24 months, you are considered disabled only if you are totally unable to work at any suitable and comparable job. Your disability may be service-connected or non-service connected.
The retirement services division can review your claim at any time after you have been granted and hold a continuing disability review. Your income from outside work, current medical records and ALL social media may be brought before the medical examining board for review.
Time Periods Filing Your Claim
The time period for filing an application for disability retirement benefits or petition for service-connected disability retirement shall begin on the day after the applicant’s last day of paid employment by the State of Connecticut and shall end at close of business on the date that is twenty-four months after the applicant’s last day of paid employment. Regs. Conn. State Agencies § 5-155a-2(d).
If you miss that two-year filing window, The Commission, in its sole discretion and after hearing held by it, may allow equitable tolling of any of the time periods set out in this regulation and thus extend the time period for filing a claim. In order to equitably toll all or a portion of said time period, a petitioner shall show that extraordinary circumstances prevented him or her from filing his or her petition within the specified time period. Regs. Conn. State Agencies § 5-155a-2(i).
Waiver of Overpayment
Sec. 5-156c. Erroneous payments; adjustment; waiver of repayment; regulations.
(a) Should any change or error in records result in any member or beneficiary receiving from any retirement system administered by the State Employees Retirement Commission more or less than he would have been entitled to receive had the records been correct, then upon discovery of any such error the Retirement Commission shall notify the member or beneficiary affected and correct the same, and as far as practicable shall adjust the payments in such manner that the actuarial equivalent of the benefit to which such member or beneficiary was correctly entitled shall be paid, provided if such change or error results in any member or beneficiary receiving less than he would have been eligible to receive, such member or beneficiary may elect to have such benefit paid in a single payment.
(b) If a member or beneficiary has been overpaid through no fault of his own, and he could not reasonably have been expected to detect the error, the Retirement Commission may waive any repayment which it believes would cause hardship.
(c) The Retirement Commission shall adopt regulations in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54 establishing criteria for the waiver of repayment.
Special Provision for Correction Officers Only
Sec. 18-101e. Calculation of disability retirement income for correction officers upon designation of extraordinary circumstances. (a) Whenever a correction officer who is a member of a state employee organization and a member of the state employees retirement system, as a result of a special hazard inherent in the duties of a correction officer, becomes (1) permanently disabled or permanently unable to render service as a correction officer, and (2) permanently unable to engage in other suitable, comparable employment, the state employee organization representing such member may, but is not required to, petition the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management on behalf of such member for a designation of extraordinary circumstances for the purpose of calculating such member’s disability retirement income.
(b) If such petition is granted by the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, or a designee, or as a result of an arbitration conducted pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, the Department of Correction shall (1) elevate such correction officer to the highest pay grade in the member’s bargaining unit, effective not later than the member’s last day of active state service, and (2) prepare an application for disability retirement benefits under the state employees retirement system that reflects the salary of such highest pay grade. The Retirement Commission shall use the salary of such highest pay grade in determining such member’s disability retirement income in accordance with the provisions of chapter 66.
Long Term Disability insurance
The State of Connecticut offers Long Term Disability (LTD) insurance coverage to its employees. This coverage is different than State of Connecticut Disability Retirement benefits. You must contribute to the cost of coverage for LTD insurance. Both full and part time employees are eligible. Ask you HR department if you are not sure if you are covered. Disability insurance is always a good idea. Disability coverage is offered by The Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company. Your coverage will either be 50% or 60% of your Pre-disability earnings. This is your regular monthly rate of pay not counting bonuses, commissions and tips and tokens, overtime pay or any other fringe benefits or extra compensation, in effect on the last day you were actively at work before you became disabled.
It can be complicated to figure out exactly how much your monthly benefit will be if you are granted LTD. This is because there may be an offset – a reduction in benefits if you have other income. If you receive Social Security, State disability retirement, or certain worker’s compensation benefits that may reduce your LTD payments. Additional offsets may also reduce your monthly benefit.
The LTD policy has a definition of “disability.” It means that you are prevented from performing one or more of the Essential Duties of:
- Your Occupation during the Elimination Period;
- Your Occupation, for the 24 months following the Elimination Period, and as a result Your Current Monthly Earnings are less than 80% of Your Indexed Pre-disability Earnings; and
- After that, Any Occupation.
This means that, after two years, it may be harder for you to stay on benefits. The definition of “disability” changes. This may mean that the insurance company will try to terminate your benefits. Even if you are not working, the insurance company may claim that there is another job that you could do.
These LTD benefits will usually end at normal retirement age. They are not lifetime benefits.
Benefits are limited to two years if you are disabled because of mental illness, alcoholism, or drug use.
You must be under the regular care of a physician whose medical training and clinical experience are suitable to treat your disabling condition. A physician is a person who is a doctor of medicine, osteopathy, psychology or other legally qualified practitioner of a healing art that The Hartford recognizes or is required by law to recognize; licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where care is being given; practicing within the scope of that license and not you or related to you by blood or marriage.
Remember, this LTD coverage is not the same as State of Connecticut Disability Retirement benefits. You may be eligible for disability retirement benefits, and not LTD. You may be eligible for LTD and not disability retirement benefits. If you are a disabled state employee, Zimberlin Law LLC will explore both options for you.