Our office receives daily telephone calls and emails from New Jersey public employees who have either been injured at work, or are experiencing an unfortunate medical episode that leaves them with the inability to continue public employment. While each call has unique facts and circumstances, they are very much the same in that the individual is calling our office to tap into our expertise and gather information on how the public employment disability pension application process works. Just to be sure we are on the same page, a “public employee” as it is being defined in this post, is any individual that works for either the State of New Jersey, a county in New Jersey or a municipality in New Jersey and is a member of one of New Jersey’s Public Employee Retirement Systems.

When the call or email comes in, a telephone appointment is established, and thereafter we will normally spend some time with the individual talking him or her through the entire pension application process. We do this not only to educate the individual, but also to assist in answering the question that we often hear the most—“Do I need an attorney to assist me in filing my application for disability retirement?” The response to this question is not a “one size fits all” answer. Instead, we always preference the answer that some people take no issue in filing the application on their own, while others seek the assistance of counsel in an effort to ensure that the application is filed correctly, and all of the supporting documentation is filed with the Pension System to ensure that their application moves through the process as quickly and painlessly as possible.

It is important for people to understand that there are numerous “pitfalls” in the application process, and at this point in my career, there aren’t to many of them that I haven’t worked through. In addition to the foregoing, it is incredibly important to note that how the application is filled out, particularly when it comes to describing how the work related accident occurred that led to the disability, can be a “make or break” factor in whether an individual receives accidental disability benefits, ordinary disability benefits, or no benefits at all. The reason why this is so important is because legal and medical standards need to be met in order to receive these benefits. That legal standard to receive accidental disability benefits is articulated in Richardson v. Board of Trustees, and the lineage of case law that has followed.

So what’s the bottom line? Do you need an attorney? That is an individualized question that can be answered by you and you only. However, I do encourage you to contact counsel to learn a bit more about the disability application process as it is only through education that you can make an informed decision.

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Photo of Frank M. Crivelli Frank M. Crivelli

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state…

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state, county and local law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS workers.

Mr. Crivelli specializes his individual practice in collective negotiations.  Over the past twenty (20) years, Mr. Crivelli has negotiated well over one hundred (100) collective bargaining agreements for various state, county, municipal and private organizations and has resolved over thirty-five (35) labor agreements that have reached impasse through compulsory interest arbitration.  Mr. Crivelli routinely litigates matters in front of the New Jersey State Public Employment Relations Commission, the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law, third party neutrals for mediation, grievance and interest arbitration, the Superior Court of New Jersey and the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Mr. Crivelli founded and created the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog (www.njpublicsafetyofficers.com) approximately fifteen (15) years ago where he and members of his firm routinely publish blog posts regarding legal issues related to the employment of New Jersey Public Safety Officers.  The blog now contains over six hundred (600) articles and is reviewed and relied upon by thousands of public employees.  Mr. Crivelli has also published books and manuals pertaining to New Jersey Public Employee Disability Pension Appeals and the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation System. Currently, he is drafting a publication on how to Prepare and Negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement.  He lectures annually at the New Jersey State PBA Collective Bargaining Seminar, the National Association of Police Organization’s Legal Seminar, the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission Seminar on Public Employment Labor Law, the United States Marine Corps’ Commander’s Media Training Symposium and to Union Executive Boards and General Membership bodies on various labor related topics.

Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Crivelli joined the United States Marine Corps where he served as a Judge Advocate with the Legal Services Support Section of the First Force Services Support Group in Camp Pendleton, California.  While serving in the Marine Corps, Mr. Crivelli defended and prosecuted hundreds of Special and General Court Martial cases and administrative separation matters.  In addition to his trial duties, Mr. Crivelli was also charged with the responsibility of training various Marine and Naval combat command elements on the interpretation and implementation of the rules of engagement for various military conflicts that were ongoing throughout the world at that time. After leaving active duty, Mr. Crivelli remained in the Marine Corps Reserves where he was promoted to the rank of Major before leaving the service.

For the past fifteen (15) years, Mr. Crivelli has been certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court for the State of New Jersey, a certification which less than two percent (2%) of the attorneys in New Jersey have achieved.  He is a graduate of Washington College (B.A.), the City University of New York School of Law (J.D.), the United States Naval Justice School, and the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation.