Ordinary Disability Benefits

 

What is Ordinary Disability (OD)?

 

After an employee exhausts all available sick leave, the Retirement Fund may pay a benefit for periods of a non-work-related disability, provided he or she has a medically disabling condition and files a timely and complete application.

 

OD Application Process

 

An employee must complete the OD application package. If you are ill and unable to return to work and anticipate exhausting your sick time, you should contact the Retirement Fund at (312) 751- 3222 as soon as possible to request an OD application package. That package includes:

 

  • Application for Disability Benefits (a separate application must be used for each period of absence requested);
  • Employee's Doctor Report;
  • Substitute W4-P form
  • Voluntary Payment Agreement for Credit Union Deductions (required only if you desire payments to be made to the Credit Union).

 

Exam by the Employee's Treating Doctor

 

Your licensed, practicing physician must complete the Employee's Doctor's Report. Your doctor must include complete information, i.e. diagnosis, treatment, medications, etc.  Your doctor also must specify the start and end dates of your disability period, and your anticipated return-to-work date. If a return to work "with restrictions" is included, please have your doctor include an "unrestricted" return to work date as well, as we will be unable to proceed further until this information is also received.

 

For non-generalized and/or long-term disabilities, we require medical documentation from your Illinois licensed, practicing doctor who specializes in the field of your claimed disability. This is to ensure that you are receiving the appropriate diagnosis and treatment for your disability.  For example, if your disability is for a mental health issue, your licensed, practicing psychiatrist must fill out your doctor's report, not a clinical therapist or internist. Similarly, a serious back injury should be verified by an orthopedist (not a chiropractor), and a cardiac specialist should verify a heart condition.

 

Exam by the Retirement Fund Doctor

 

Once the OD application package is complete, the employee must return the original documents (marked with an orange ORIGINAL stamp at the bottom) to the Retirement Fund office. After review of your application and physician's report Fund staff will designate an appropriate doctor for your further examination on behalf of the Retirement Fund. Important notes about the Retirement Fund's consulting physician's exam:

 

  • This examination is due within 30 days of our receipt of your completed application.
  • You will be responsible for any charges incurred for failure to report (or late arrival) to your scheduled examination by the Retirement Fund's designated doctor.
  • If any duty-related cause is perceived by our physician related to your comments or otherwise, the exam will be terminated and you will be referred to the Claims Section of the Law Department.
  • All applicants must submit to an exam by the Retirement Fund's consulting medical practitioner. The only exception is if you are hospitalized or if going to see our physician would cause you to risk serious injury.
  • If you are hospitalized and unable to see the Retirement Fund doctor for confirmation of disability, you must provide official documentation of hospitalization (letter on hospital letterhead, hospital bill, discharge papers, etc.) for us to pay any benefits for your hospitalized time prior to seeing our doctor.
  • If seeing our physician would cause you to risk serious injury, your doctor may complete the Documentation of Immobility. Examples of appropriate uses for this document include comatose patients, immobile stroke sufferers, and those who have a compromised immune system due to illness or regimen of cancer treatment.

 

OD Deadline Dates

 

Each step of the application process has an associated deadline. For example, a completed OD package must be turned in to the Retirement Fund office the Tuesday of the week prior to the payroll date. The employee must see the Retirement Fund's doctor by Thursday of the week prior to the payroll date. OD payroll is a process and it takes time to assure that each employee is paid properly. Each employee must adhere to these deadlines. If you miss a deadline, you will be paid the following payroll. There are no exceptions.

 

We recommend that if you have a pre-scheduled procedure such as surgery or a foreseeable event such as childbirth, that you complete your OD paperwork in advance. An employee can start the OD steps as early as 30 days prior to the start date of the disability. However, we recommend that the steps be completed three weeks in advance to leave room for any delays that may take place. Paperwork that is over 30 days old will not be accepted and must be resubmitted.

 

Employees applying for OD must submit to a medical examination by their attending physician while symptomatic with the claimed disability. In the instance of a "planned" disability, such as a scheduled surgery or childbirth, the medical examination may take place before the anticipated date of disability. However in the case of a planned disability, the employee will be asked to supply additional documentation confirming that the procedure took place and the date of the procedure.

 

No Ordinary Disability Benefits will be granted for any period of time prior to 30 days before your completed application (including your doctor's report) is received in the Fund's Office.

 

How the OD Benefit is Calculated

 

The amount of Ordinary Disability to which you may be entitled is dependent on the tier in which you participate. Refer to the definitions below:

Tier I Participant: An employee of the District who first became a member before January 1, 2011 under any reciprocal retirement system or pension fund established under Chapter 40 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes except Judges, General Assembly, police and fire pension plans (both Chicago and downstate). This includes any Commissioner who fits the criteria above who elects to participate in the Fund within 90 days after becoming a Commissioner.

Tier II Participant: An employee of the District who first became a member on or after January 1, 2011 except for those who were members of any reciprocal retirement system including the IMRF, Municipal Employees Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, Laborers' Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, County Employees Annuity and Benefit Fund of Cook County, Forest Preserve of Cook County Employees Annuity and Benefit Fund, Chicago Park Pension, State Employees Retirement System, State Universities Retirement System, Illinois Teachers Retirement System,  or Chicago Teachers Pension Fund prior to January 1, 2011. This includes any Commissioner who fits the criteria above who elects to participate in the Fund within 90 days after becoming a Commissioner.

How the Benefit is Calculated for Tier I Participants

 

The OD benefit equals 50% of your bi-weekly salary on the date of injury or illness.

 

How the Benefit is Calculated for Tier II Participants

 

The OD benefit calculation is similar to the calculation for Tier I Participants. However, all benefits payable from this fund to Tier II Participants are limited to a salary cap. In 2012, the highest salary upon which a benefit may be based is $108,882.60 annually. This salary cap is adjusted each January 1st by the lesser of 3% and one-half of the CPI-u for the 12 months ending with the September preceding each November 1, including all previous adjustments.

 

Example 1: Cecilia the Civil Engineer is a Tier II Participant. She was off of work due to a non-work related condition. Her bi-weekly salary was $3,000 at the time of injury. She was off for a full bi-weekly pay period, or ten (10) working days. To calculate her bi-weekly OD benefit:

 

1)    Test her salary for the cap. $3,000 x 26 = $78,000, which is less than the 2013 salary cap of $109,971.43.

2)    Calculate 50%. $3,000 x 50% = $1,500.

 

Cecilia will receive an OD check in the amount of $1,500 less any applicable deductions for health, dental, and term life insurance as well as any medical spending contribution and credit union deduction.

 

Example 2: Mike the Master Mechanic is a Tier II Participant. He was off work due to a non-work related condition. His bi-weekly salary was $4,400 at the time of injury. He was off for a full bi-weekly pay period, or ten (10) working days. To calculate his bi-weekly DD benefit:

 

1)    Test his salary for the cap. $4,400 x 26 = $114,400, which is greater than the 2013 salary cap of $109,971.43. Therefore, we must limit the benefit to the cap.

2)    Figure the bi-weekly cap. $109,971.43/26 = $4,229.67

3)    Calculate 50% of the bi-weekly cap. $4,229.67 x 50% = $2,114.84

 

Mike will receive an OD check in the amount of $2,114.84 less any applicable deductions for health, dental, and term life insurance as well as any medical spending contribution and credit union deduction.

 

Ordinary Disability Duration

 

OD terminates when the earliest of the following occurs:

 

1) The employee returns to work, separates from service or retires;

2) The disability ceases;

3) The employee willfully and continuously refuses to follow medical advice and treatment to enable the employee to return to work;

4) The employee (i) refuses to submit to physical examinations, (ii) fails or refuses to consent to and sign an authorization allowing the Board to received copies of or to examine the employee's medical and hospital records, or (iii) fails or refuses to provide complete information regarding any other employment for compensation he or she has received since becoming disabled; or

5) The eligible period for this benefit has been exhausted. The eligible period for this benefit shall be 25% of the employee's total actual service prior to the date of disability with a cumulative maximum period of five (5) years.

 

Extension of Disability Benefits

 

An employee will not be covered on OD beyond the date approved by the Board of Trustees unless an application for extension is filed with the Retirement Fund office. If an employee is off of work on OD and is nearing the end of the approved period of disability and does not anticipate being medically able to return to work, he should contact the Retirement Fund at (312) 751- 3222 for an extension application. The employee must again comply with all required procedures described above.

 

Return to Work

 

Many employees who are off work for 60 calendar days or more may need clearance to return to work by the District's approved physician. Phone Human Resources at (312) 751-5188 to arrange this physical examination.

 

Payment of OD Benefits

 

OD is paid on the same day as the bi-weekly payroll. Ordinary Disability benefits are paid in the form of a check. The Retirement Fund does not offer direct deposit.

 

OD benefits are based upon your salary on the date of injury or illness. Salary increases granted after you become disabled do not increase your disability benefit unless the salary increase is retroactive to the date of injury or illness.

Employees hired after June 13, 1997 will not be paid the first 3 days of disability benefits until they have been on approved disability at least 14 consecutive, calendar days. Therefore, if the period of disability is 3 days or less, you need not apply for benefits since they cannot be paid.

 

Employee-Supervisor Communication

 

The employee should keep his supervisor informed about the status of the disability and the expected date of his return to work. If not, the supervisor should not hesitate to call the employee during the period of disability to ask about the employee's estimated return to work. To ensure medical confidentiality, the supervisor is cautioned not to ask about the employee's medical disability. The Retirement Fund staff will answer inquiries by Department representatives as to the status of OD applications. Confidentiality about the nature of the employee's disability will be maintained by the Retirement Fund.

 

Ancillary Benefits of OD:

 

  • Pension service credit toward continues as if you were working. This service credit is granted at no cost to the employee.
  • Surviving spouse benefit protection. If death occurs while on OD, your spouse and children under age 18 (age 23 if full-time students) will be eligible for survivor benefits which would be calculated as if you had been working.
  • Medical, dental and term life insurance continue while you are on OD. Deductions will be made from the OD check for your medical, dental and term life premiums.
  • Final Average Salary (FAS) for annuity calculation purposes will be calculated as if you were receiving full pay.
  • An employee who exhausts ordinary disability credit, and who withdraws from service while still disabled and is unable to return to gainful employment, is entitled to receive a disability annuity regardless of age provided he has at least five (5) years of pension service credit. If the employee was hired after August 18, 2005, those five years are exclusive of periods of OD.
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