Most governmental employees and some other individuals qualify for disability benefits through enrollment in Colorado’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA). If you elected the PERA Defined Benefit (DB) Plan, you have access to disability benefits should illness or accident prevent you from performing your work.
What benefits might you qualify for?
· Short-term disability (STD): To qualify for the STD offered by PERA, you must show that you cannot perform your current duties or any other job in which you could earn at least 75% of your previous income. The maximum coverage for STD is 60% of your pre-disability income for 22 months.
· Disability retirement coverage: To receive this benefit, you must demonstrate a total inability to perform any work—at present or in the future—in which you could earn at least 75% of your pre-disability earnings. If the insurance company approves your claim, you could receive benefits for life or until you recover from your disability.
What should you know before you apply for benefits?
· Apply as soon as possible following the advent of your medical condition. You have 90 days to apply from the onset of your disability.
· Eligibility is determined by the amount of service credit you have earned. You must have five or more years on your record, with six months being in the most recent membership period.
· You cannot be eligible for service retirement.
· You must not have refunded your PERA account if your membership has lapsed.
Understanding disability benefits can be challenging due to legalese in the paperwork and nuances in the contract. Filing an application can feel daunting. However, the real challenge will come if, for some reason, the insurance company denies your claim. Know that disability claim denials happen, and it does not necessarily mean that you are ineligible for benefits. You have legal options to pursue that may help you succeed in securing the benefits you seek.