Tuesday, June 27, 2017

CalPERS Changes Eligibility Rules for Industrial Disability Retirement

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) posted Circular Letter 200-018-17 on March 30, 2017. Among other things, this Letter addresses changes to the eligibility determinations for certain local safety members applying for industrial disability retirement. 

In the past, CalPERS relied on the employer’s recommendation to verify eligibility of any member for industrial disability retirement. However, CalPERS will now independently evaluate whether certain members are eligible. The employer must obtain CalPERS’ determination of a member’s eligibility to apply for disability retirement before the employer starts the process of a disability determination for any of the following circumstances:

  • Disciplinary process underway prior to the member’s separation from employment.
  • The member was terminated for cause.
  • The member resigned in lieu of termination.
  • The member signed an agreement to waive his or her reinstatement right as part of a legal settlement (i.e., Employment Reinstatement Waiver).
  • The member has been convicted of or is being investigated for a work-related felony.
The Letter also imposes a requirement for local agencies to re-evaluate eligibility determinations for disability retirees under the voluntary service retirement age. The purpose is to verify whether the recipient remains physically or mentally disabled from the position which they disability retired for the condition(s) that they were approved for.

The Letter requires employers to provide all relevant personnel documents and medical records to CalPERS. This information will be used to conduct the second evaluation of a member’s medical incapacity and employment status.  However, providing such information to CalPERS creates a conflict for safety employers. For example, Penal Code section 832.7 prohibits employers from disclosing peace officer personnel records without the peace officer’s written consent or a Pitchess motion. Employers are also prohibited from disclosing medical information without written authorization from the employee.