Since the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Richardson v. Board of Trustees, Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, 192 N.J. 189 (2007), we have witnessed more denials of accidental disability applications based on the premise that the member suffered from a pre-existing illness or injury which contributed to the overall disability that prevented the
Following up on our previous entry, this article will help our readers understand the criteria that must be met in order for a public employee to qualify for an ordinary or accidental disability pension within one of the following State pension systems, the Public Employees Retirement System, the Teachers Pension and Annuity Fund, the State Police Retirement System, and the Judicial Retirement System. While these pension plans are similar in defined benefits and criteria for eligibility, each has their own specific nuances that are particular to the membership they serve.
Accidental v. Ordinary Disability Benefits
In accordance with the Public Employees Retirement System (“PERS”) and Teachers Pension and Annuity Fund (“TPAF”) handbooks, in order to qualify for an ordinary disability retirement, an employee must:
· Have an active pension account;
· Have 10 or more years of New Jersey service credit;
· Be considered totally and permanently disabled; and
· Submit medical reports certifying the disability.
In order to qualify for an accidental disability retirement, a member must:
· Be considered totally and permanently disabled as a result of a “traumatic event” that happened during and as a direct result of carrying out the member’s regular or assigned job duties;
· File an application for disability retirement within five (5) years of the date of the “traumatic event”; and
· Be examined by physicians selected by the retirement system.
If an employee claiming membership to either one of these retirement funds qualified for accidental disability, his/her annual retirement allowance will be 72.7% of their salary at the time of the “traumatic event.”
Should the public employee be receiving periodic workers’ compensation benefits, the accidental disability retirement benefits will be reduced dollar for dollar by the periodic benefits paid after the retirement date. However, the retirement benefit is not reduced by any Social Security or private insurance benefits that may be payable.
The New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits reports accidental disability retirement benefits as exempt from federal income tax. The benefits are also