OCERS Attorneys Answer Disability Retirement Questions
Cantrell Green is an Orange County law firm with extensive experience in the area of retirement and disability law. In this article, our attorneys answer questions you may have regarding the Orange County Employee Retirement System (OCERS) that relate to disability retirement.
What is OCERS?
OCERS has been providing retirement, death and disability benefits to employees of Orange County for over 70 years. It basically offers a system of payment of benefits to retired and disabled people employed by the County. While you are an active member, both you and your employer make mandatory contributions to the Retirement System. You become a member of the retirement system automatically on the date you begin employment in an eligible position.
Because OCERS is what is known as a defined benefit plan, once you enter retirement, you are eligible to receive a monthly lifetime allowance that is based on your age at retirement, years of service, and the average salary you were making at the time of retirement. Survivor or death benefits may be available to your spouse or beneficiary. And, in addition, there are disability benefits available assuming that you meet the eligibility requirements.
How Much OCERs Disability Retirement Can I Expect to Get?
Generally speaking, the monthly Service-Connected Disability Retirement allowance is about half of your average salary at the time of retirement (your Final Average Salary), subject to some limitations.
However, if you are also eligible for a Service Retirement allowance, the amount you receive will be the greater of the Service Retirement allowance or your Disability Retirement allowance.
Is OCERs Service-Connected Disability Retirement Allowance Taxable?
Currently, the Service-Connected Disability Retirement allowance is not taxed unless you receive an amount that is more than 50 percent of your Final Average Salary. It is best to consult your accountant if you have questions regarding the taxability of your Service-Connected Disability Allowance.
What is the Difference between Service-Connected and Non-Service Connected Disability?
The Orange County Employee Retirement System provides for service connected and non-service connected disability retirements. You are eligible for a Service-Connected Disability Retirement allowance if: you are found to be permanently physically or mentally incapacitated from performing the usual duties of your job, your incapacity arose out of and in the course of your employment, and your employment is found to have contributed substantially to your being incapacitated.
You are eligible for a Non-Service Connected Disability Retirement allowance if: you have five or more years of service credit, you are deemed to be permanently physically or mentally incapacitated from performing the usual duties of your job, and your disability is not due to a job-related illness or injury.
How does OCERS Define Disability?
OCERS will determine that you are permanently disabled if you can demonstrate that you have a physical or mental condition that permanently prevents you from performing the normal functions of your assignment in your job classification. While that sounds fairly straightforward, retirement law is tricky, and involves complex issues.
Are Certain Conditions Presumed to be Work-Related by OCERS?
Some conditions, such as certain heart conditions, cancer, blood-borne infectious diseases and biochemical substance disabilities may be presumed to be work related for certain classes of employees. An example of this would be a firefighter who has received a diagnosis of cancer after having been exposed to carcinogens or biological or chemical agents in the course of his or her job duties. It is important to note that benefits paid under these scenarios may, under certain circumstances, qualify as tax exempt by the IRS. Consulting a tax professional is critical to ensure that you understand whether or not your unique situation falls under the tax exemption provisions of the IRS.
OCERS Disability Retirement Attorneys
The attorneys at Cantrell Green have all the experience necessary to successfully shepherd you through the disability retirement claim process. From determining what documentation is necessary to support your disability retirement claim to helping you find medical treatment, to negotiating, settling, or litigating if necessary, Cantrell Green will be with you every step of the way. Give our office a call to schedule a free consultation, and we will help you determine what your best options are to get OCERS disability retirement benefits to which you are entitled.
Free Consultation OCERS Disability Retirement Attorney: 800-964-8047
This article applies to members of Orange County Employees’ Retirement System (OCERS); and does not reflect the rules, laws or regulations governing how other public retirement systems are administered. If you have question about another public employee retirement system, find your system, below – or call our office at: 562-622-4800