About state and local government disability programs...
The Florida Retirement System (FRS) was established in 1970 as a consolidated statewide retirement system for Florida's public employees. The FRS is the primary retirement plan for employees of Florida's state and county government agencies, district school boards, and community colleges and universities, as well as for participating employees of the 151 cities and 186 independent special districts in Florida that have elected to join the system (dependent districts of participating local governments are compulsory participants). The FRS currently offers a defined benefit plan that provides retirement, disability, and death benefits for nearly 600,000 active members and over 270,000 retirees, surviving beneficiaries, and DROP participants. In addition, the FRS offers eligible employees both integrated and nonintegrated optional defined contribution plans through programs covering about 66,000 active members. For pension plan details, you may wish to review a summary plan description.
Disability claims under the Florida Retirement System include both in-line-of-duty and non-in-line-of-duty or regular disability claims. In most cases in-line-of-duty claims will arise out of workers' compensation claims that arise out of your government employment, although this is not always necessary. Regular disability claims may arise out of any injury, illness, or condition that causes disability. To qualify for disability retirement under the FRS Pension Plan or FRS Investment Plan, the member must be totally and permanently disabled and be unable to work - that is, must be prevented by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment from performing useful and efficient service as an officer or employee. The disabling injury or illness must have occurred or become symptomatic before the member terminated covered employment. An employee who is physically or mentally unable to continue performing in his/her present occupation, but is able to perform another type of work, will not qualify for disability benefits.
The claims process is simple to start and you should have the assistance of your employer's benefits or personnel office in starting your claim. The claim is presented to the state Division of Retirement for an initial decision on your claim. Generally speaking your claim will be accepted if you can obtain two physicians who will sign a form attesting that you are considered to be totally and permanently disabled. At least one of those physicians should be a treating physician and the other physician should at least have examined you and be familiar with your medical records. Your claim will likely be denied if you cannot obtain certification from two physicians. Upon denial of your claim, you have the right to file an appeal to the State Retirement Commission. The Commission will hold a hearing in location reasonably convenient to you at which you may be represented by an attorney and will have the opportunity to present witnesses and other evidence of your disability. The Commission is not bound by determinations of the Social Security Administration and may not consider such evidence. Vocational evidence may be presented, however. If your claim is successful, the Commission may award a reasonable attorney fee for your attorney's services.
A considerable amount of information and assistance is available from the Florida Division of Retirement's website http://www.frs.state.fl.us/ . Be sure to click on "Publications" at the Home Page to access several Guides published by the Florida Retirement System.