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Service retirement

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How the pension system works – Police officers and firefighters can retire after 20 years of service. A service retirement is calculated by multiplying 2.5 percent of an officer’s average highest salary times years of service.

For example, an officer with 24 years on the force with an average highest salary of $50,000 would receive an annual pension of $30.000.

Disability retirement

For disabling injuries occurring after July 15, 1994, a police officer receives an income equal to a minimum of 60 percent of his or her final rate of pay. Two board-approved physicians examine an applicant and decide the person’s percentage of disability.

If the disability percentage is less than 20 percent, the person receives 60 percent of pay. With any disability rating over 20 percent, the board takes half of the disability percentage and adds it on to the total pay percentage. The maximum pay someone can receive is 75 percent of salary.

For example, a firefighter who has an injury that is determined to be 30 percent disabling would receive 75 percent (60 plus 15) of his salary. If that firefighter’s average highest salary was $50,000, he would receive a pension of $37,500 a year.

The benefits

• Unlike a service retirement, disability retirement income is tax free.

• Children of disabled police and fire fighters can go to any state college or university for free until age 23.

The process

An applicant must submit a note by a doctor regarding the nature of the disability that says that the applicant will not improve over time.

The member’s application is considered at the next board meeting. The board then decides to send the applicant to two doctors of the pension board’s choosing. (The board foots the bill for both doctors’ reviews.)

The physicians evaluate the applicant based on the American Medical Association’s disability guidelines.

The board considers the physicians’ assessment of the applicant’s disability.

If the board denies the application, the applicant can ask for a rehearing. If the application is still denied, the applicant can appeal the board’s decision to circuit court.

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