What Is The Standard To Receive a Line-of-Duty Pension?
If you’re a first responder, the standard to receive the Line-of-Duty pension depends on the system you work in: The The Florida Retirement System (FRS) or the Municipality System. However, whether you work in the FRS or the Municipality System, you must be at Maximum Medical Improvement (MII). According to Florida law, MMI is the “date after which further recovery from, or lasting improvement to, an injury or disease can no longer be reasonably anticipated, based upon reasonable medical probability.” When your doctor declares you have attained MMI, it means you have exhausted the invasive or curative medical options available - all procedures, treatments, and medications - to improve the current medical condition that was caused by your work injury.
Once you reach MMI, to be eligible for a Line of Duty Disability Pension in the FRS system, you must be permanently and totally disabled from all gainful employment. In the Municipality System, you must be totally disabled from all useful and efficient service as either a police officer or a firefighter.
A Brief History of Chapters 175/185 of the Florida Statutes
In 1939, the Florida legislature declared it is a proper and legitimate state purpose to provide a uniform retirement system for the benefit of firefighters and police officers. To serve this purpose, they enacted Chapter 175 of the Florida Statutes and offered an incentive - access to premium tax revenues - to cities throughout the state to establish retirement plans for firefighters. Fourteen years later, in 1953, the Florida legislature set up a similar funding mechanism for police officers with Chapter 185. Since their inception, both chapters have been amended by multiple legislative acts. For a full legislative history of Chapters 175/185, click here.
The Municipal Police Officers Retirement Trust Funds and the Firefighters’ Pension Trust Funds
The Florida legislature decreed that these retirement systems or plans be managed, administered, operated, and funded to maximize the protection of the Municipal Police Officers Retirement Trust Funds and the Firefighters' Pension Trust Funds. As mandated by Florida Statutes, the Division of Retirement houses the Municipal Police Officers and Firefighters’ Retirement Trust Funds Office that monitors and oversees the plans. This office has full administrative oversight of local police and fire pension funds in the state of Florida that participate under Chapters 175/185. Their responsibilities include receiving and holding the premium tax money collected and disbursing this money to the Police Officers and Firefighters' Retirement Plans.
The statutes provide a means to regulate the minimum pension benefits provided to local police officers and firefighters under these defined benefit retirement plans. Two types of plans operate under these statutes:
- Chapter Plans (plans that adopt the chapter by reference)
- Local Law Plans (plans that are created by a special act, local ordinance, or resolution that meet minimum standards set forth in ss. 175.351 and 185.35)
For both types of plans, the day-to-day operational control of the individual trust funds is vested in the respective boards of trustees created at the local level, subject to regulatory oversight by the Florida Division of Retirement.
In-Line-Of-Duty Disability Retirement and the Florida Retirement System (FRS)
In-Line-of-Duty Disability benefits are payable to first responders who become disabled due to an illness or injury that occurs as a result of the performance of duties required by their employer. As we mentioned above, if you work in the FRS, you must be permanently and totally disabled from all gainful employment to qualify for in-line-of-duty disability benefits; whereas, if you work in the Municipality System, you must be totally disabled from all useful and efficient service as either a police officer or a firefighter. You are covered for in-line-of-duty disability retirement from your first day of employment and can apply for in-line-of-duty disability benefits if your injury or illness occurred in the actual performance of your job duties. Furthermore, your doctors must attest you are totally and permanently disabled due to an on-the-job injury or illness, and you must provide FRS with a copy of the Notice of Injury, as filed with Workers' Compensation.
Questions About In-Line-Of-Duty Disability Pensions for First Responders in Florida?
At Bichler & Longo we focus on helping first responders who have been injured in the line of duty. If you have questions about your eligibility for an In-Line-Of-Duty pension after following the protocol for workers’ compensation and reaching MMI as diagnosed by an authorized doctor, we are happy to assist you. Contact us today to schedule a free evaluation of your case.