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Type of disability determines benefit level

Updated: October 3, 2012 3:18PM

Here’s how disability pay works for Chicago police officers:

They are allotted a total of 365 sick days. If they’re injured, they have to use up those sick days before they can obtain disability pay.

The board of the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago — the city’s police pension fund — then decides which type of disability injured officers qualify for. That determines the benefits they get.

The pension board includes four city officials and four elected police representatives.

The basic qualifications for a disability finding for police officers: They can’t safely discharge and protect their weapons, or they can’t walk without difficulty, or both.

Officers deemed by the board to be disabled fall into one of four categories. Here’s a breakdown, including the number of disabled Chicago officers in each category:

Permanent and total duty disability

19 officers: The most lucrative benefit, established by a state law passed in 2001, awarded to officers whose injuries are so severe they’re considered incapable of being able to be gainfully employed. They get 75 percent of the current salary for the job they held at the time they were hurt.

Duty disability

253 officers: Covering those hurt while on the job. These officers initially get 75 percent of their salaries as disability pay for as long as seven years. After seven years, if they remain on duty disability, they are guaranteed at least 60 percent of the current salary they would have made for their old job.

disease disability

39 officers: For off-duty officers with at least 10 years of service who suffer a heart attack or any other “disabling” heart disease. They get 65 percent of their salaries for as long as 10 years. After that, if they remain on disability, they’re guaranteed at least 60 percent of the current salary they would have gotten for their old job.

Ordinary disability

36 officers: The least lucrative disability plan, for officers injured while off-duty. This limits pay to 50 percent of officers’ salaries at the time they were hurt, which they can be paid for no more than five years. At that point, if they can’t return to the police department, all payments end.

Disability pay for cops injured in the line of duty — as well as for those on occupational disease disability — is tax-free. They’re also entitled to free health insurance for themselves and their families, as well as a $100-a-month payment for each child under 18. They continue to earn credits toward a police pension even though they no longer have to contribute to the pension fund. They can stay on disability until the mandatory police retirement age of 63, when they can begin drawing a pension.

Officers on ordinary disability pay for health insurance and are taxed on their disability income. Like officers hurt in the line of duty, they don’t make contributions to the pension fund.

Most officers on disability are examined once a year to see if they’re able to return to work. In many cases, officers’ personal physicians examine them one year, and pension board doctors do so the next.

Tim Novak
and Chris Fusco

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