California Public Employees Retirement System
If you have a disabling injury or illness that prevents you from performing your usual job duties with your current employer, you may be eligible for disability or industrial disability retirement through CalPERS. To be eligible, an employee must be “substantially incapacitated from the performance of duty.” This “substantial incapacity” must be due to a medical condition of permanent or extended and uncertain duration (lasting longer than 6 months), on the basis of competent medical opinion.
Neither one has an age requirement, but generally, you must have at least five years of service credit to be eligible for Disability Retirement, and Second Tier members must have 10 years. Some exceptions apply to the service requirement. Contact CalPERS to see if you qualify.
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.
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.
CalPERS can expedite emergency retirement for those facing a terminal illness. If this is your case, contact CalPERS or your employer immediately for special assistance.
Once an employee is unable to perform the job because of an illness or injury which is expected to be permanent or last longer than six months, the employee (or someone on the employee’s behalf) should submit an application for Disability Retirement. The condition does not have to be permanent and stationary before an application is submitted and the employee should not wait until the outcome of a workers’ compensation claim. A workers’ compensation award does NOT automatically entitle the employee to an Industrial Disability Retirement.
Employees who are eligible to retire on a Service Retirement and have a disabling condition, may elect to apply for Service Retirement pending Disability or Industrial Disability Retirement. While the employee’s medical qualification for Disability Retirement is being determined, the employee could be receiving a Service Retirement allowance. If later the Disability Retirement is approved, the retirement status and benefits will be adjusted from Service to Disability retroactive to the effective Service Retirement date. Please note that if the Disability Retirement is denied, the employee will NOT have mandatory return to work rights.
The employee and employer will be notified when CalPERS makes a determination of disability. All parties have the right to appeal the approval/denial of the application for Disability/Industrial Disability Retirement by filing a written request with CalPERS within 30 days of the mailing of the determination letter. The appeal should set forth the factual basis and legal authorities for said appeal.
All hearings are heard by an independent Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) with the Department of General Services, Office of Administrative Hearing. The ALJ receives and reviews the evidence in the case, and writes a recommendation, called a “Proposed Decision”, to the CalPERS Board of Administration.
Though appeal hearings are “public hearings,” they are generally not attended by anyone except the actual parties involved. The party challenging the CalPERS decision will have the burden of proof and will proceed first. Evidence is presented (usually medical records) and witnesses are called (usually medical experts and the employee who filed the application). These hearings are treated very much like “trials”, and CalPERS will be represented by an attorney, so it is highly recommended (though NOT required) that the employee be represented by an attorney as well.
Q: How can the the status of my retirement application be determined?
A: The status of your service retirement application can only be determined by a phone call or visit to CalPERS. If you're requesting disability retirement, you can view your status online. Contact CalPERS at 888 CalPERS (or 888-225-7377) for more information.
Q: What is the time frame to make changes to your retirement application?
A: You cannot cancel your retirement or change your retirement payment option, designated lifetime beneficiary, or requested retirement date more than 30 days after the issuance of your first retirement benefit check. Therefore, it is important you fully understand what each retirement option means. If you want to make a change, contact us CalPERS at 888 CalPERS (or 888-225-7377).
Q: When are Annual Member Statements available?
A: Your statement is available online each fall. Log in to my|CalPERS where you can download and print your most current and previous statements. If you would like to receive your statements by mail, you must change your statement delivery preference in my|CalPERS.
Q: When is the earliest I can retire?
A: For most people, the earliest you can retire is age 50. If you became a member on or after January 1, 2013, you must be age 52. State Second Tier members cannot retire until at least age 55. If you're not sure which CalPERS formula you're under, check with your personnel office.
Q: When will I get my first retirement check?
A: That depends on your retirement date and when your final documents are received and processed by CalPERS. The first payment can take up to 30-45 calendar days from your retirement date or the date your application is received, whichever is later. Because each case is different, contact CalPERS to learn exactly when your first check will be sent.
If you have any questions whether you qualify for Disability or Industrial Disability retirement benefits, or if you have received a denial of benefits notice from CalPERS and notice of appeal, please contact me for a FREE confidential consultation at (916) 333-4653 or Stephen_Fiegel_Esq@comcast.net.
Copyright Law Office of Stephen Fiegel – All rights reserved.