Disability Retirement & Subsequent Injuries Benefit Trust Fund
Updated: April 21, 2022
Industrial Disability Retirement (IDR) and Subsequent Injuries Benefit Trust Fund (SIBTF)
As an attorney who handles Safety, I do understand Industrial Disability Retirement (IDR) which is the benefit where Safety personnel has his/her career “cut short” by a work related injury. If a doctor indicates you are substantially incapacitated from your essential job functions, then you’d be eligible for IDR which pays 50% of your base wages tax-free with any service time exceeding 50% paid as normal.
We see IDR possibilities in a lot of our CDCR, Cal Fire, CHP, and city and county sheriff and firefighter cases.
You can read more about IDR by going here:
Industrial Disability Retirement
Subsequent Injuries Benefit Trust Fund (SIBTF) is a unique area of workers’ compensation law that few attorneys really handle on a day-to-day basis.
To read more about SIBTF, by going here:
Subsequent Injuries Benefit Trust Fund
It’s hard to find an attorney who understands IDR and it’s hard to find an attorney who understands SIBTF. Therefore, it’s rare to find an attorney who handles both.
Why does this matter?
Filing for IDR incorrectly (by CAL PERS Application) can directly affect and often wash out the SIBTF rights. It’s doubtful a person filing for IDR (or their IDR attorney) understands SIBTF, and it’s doubtful an attorney who handles SIBTF understands IDR.
Here is an example:
Nine years ago, a correctional officer has a neck injury and ends up having a neck fusion and returns to work. The neck fusion causes him to not be able to do many things in the broad overall job market, but he does return to correctional work. Five years ago, he’s diagnosed with a heart problem. Again, it precludes him from doing many things in the job market, but he does return to that job.
The neck fusion causes 50% disability and the heart problem causes 53% disability.
Then, one day the officer’s back gives out and ends up not being able to return the job based on severe impact on ability to stand, walk, and respond to an alarm. That disability ends up being 40%.
If the officer files an IDR Application, he would definitely list the back as the injury that substantially incapacitates him from his job.
However, what I often see from people who fill out the IDR Application is that they list all of the injuries (i.e. back, neck, heart). This may make sense if there is thought and strategy that goes into that decision, but I often see it arbitrarilly done because listing them all causes “no harm” in the eyes of the person filling out the Application. In that situation, it does not make sense and if someone has pre-existing workers’ compensation injuries, you should give careful thought to listing those in this scenario.
Why is this a problem?
First, the neck and heart on their own didn’t disable the officer from his job, so in a technical sense, they didn’t cause him to be incapacitated from his job. In a sense, it doesn’t help eligibility for the Application (there can be unique situations where this is not true, but in this situation, which is common, it is true.)
Second, by listing the pre-existing disabilities on the IDR Application, the SIBTF process is affected, because SIBTF pays you for pre-existing disabilities. If a person is retired from Safety work (in this case Corrections), it does not mean they cannot seek other work that is different than Safety work. However, if this same person has pre-existing disabilities combined with the back disability, he may not be able to seek other work. If an officer has his career “cut-short,” his earning potential is greatly affected and, therefore, the payment on pre-existing disabilities through SIBTF may be appropriate.
Therefore, it is important to understand SIBTF when applying for IDR especially if you’ve had prior workers’ compensation claims where settlement amounts are paid.