Calling the current situation “financially unsustainable,” Minnesota cities will seek state assistance to cover the costs of the growing number of police officers retiring due to post-traumatic stress and seeking accident benefits. job.
The League of Minnesota Cities plans to push again in the next legislative session for a bill that fully reimburse cities for the cost of insurance for police and firefighters on disability pensions, according to Anne Finn, a lobbyist for the group.
The number of cops and firefighters requesting disability pensions from the state pension fund has skyrocketed since the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020 which sparked widespread protests, riots and arson .
As of August 2020, around 80% of disability pension applicants say they cannot do their job due to post-traumatic stress disorder.
When a worker receives a disability pension, Minnesota law requires cities to continue paying for health insurance until age 65, with the state reimbursing a portion of the costs.
When the law was enacted in 1997, it contained a provision requiring the state’s Department of Public Security to reimburse employers for the full cost of health insurance. In 2002, the fund was insufficient, so the legislature amended the law to distribute the reimbursement to cities based on the amount of the fund and the number of candidates.
Since then, the cost has increased every year for cities, unlike state funding.
The State Public Employees Retirement Association, known as PERA, received 119 disability pension applications from the police and firefighters in 2019, 236 in 2020, and 256 through October this year. .
Of the claims since August 2020, 88% are cops saying they have PTSD. Of the workers applying during this time, 46% were from Minneapolis, 44% from outside the Twin Cities, and 10% from St. Paul.
The PERA pension scheme allows workers to take early retirement due to a disability and obtain at least 60% of their salary tax-free for five years or until the age of 55, when at which it turns into a regular retreat.
Most PTSD claims are also approved, thanks to a 2019 state law that states that if a worker suffers from PTSD, it is presumed to be work-related.
Then, armed with a disability pension, many employees apply for workers’ compensation benefits. Combined, the two benefits can add up to a full salary.
Health insurance can cost a city hundreds of thousands of dollars if the employee leaves at a relatively young age. Cities must continue to provide the level of health insurance that a worker had – like family coverage – until age 65, so if the monthly premium is $ 1,500, that’s $ 360,000 out of 20. years, not counting premium increases.
Finn, lobbyist for the League of Minnesota Cities, said the group would not seek the repeal of the PTSD presumption, but would consider changing the law to require a window where workers can seek treatment while on paid leave. The League will seek full state reimbursement from cities for providing paid time and filling these positions.
âPTSD is something more delicate than just a physical injury,â she said.
The league’s board of directors has identified disability pensions as one of its five legislative priorities. They passed a policy last week saying they are concerned about the increase in cases not only because of the effect disability pensions and workers’ compensation claims are having on employees and employers, but also because the system “may be incompatible with the goal of restoring good health.” and the return of employees to work.
The league will also push for legislation to fund mental health programs and demand that public safety college programs include mental health and PTSD education, with an emphasis on prevention and prevention. adaptation.
All but nine self-insured Minnesota cities have workers’ compensation coverage through the league.