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Friday, December 2, 2011

PSEBA Benefits Begin on the Date of Termination of Employment, Not the Date of Injury

On December 1, 2011, the Illinois Supreme Court held that benefits under the Public Safety Employees Benefits Act (PSEBA) begin on the date of termination of employment, reversing an appellate court’s decision that PSEBA benefits attach on the date of the injury.             

The case, Nowak v. City of Country Club Hills, involved a police officer who was injured in the line-of-duty.  Three years after his injury, he was awarded a line-of-duty disability.  The officer claimed that he was entitled to reimbursement of the portion of his health insurance premiums that he paid while still employed during the three year period from his injury to the disability determination.  The trial court held that PSEBA attaches on the date of the determination of the disability.  The appellate court reversed, holding that benefits kick in on the date of the injury. 

The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s decision, agreeing with the trial court that PSEBA benefits do not begin until the officer’s employment was terminated.  The Court first examined the language of the statute, finding that it was silent on the issue of when the employer’s obligation attaches.  Because the statute could be reasonably interpreted in one of two ways (as the trial court and appellate court established in their differing opinions) the Supreme Court found the language ambiguous and turned to the legislative history for guidance.  Relying on statements made by legislators in debating the bill, as well as a public policy analysis, the Court determined that the legislature intended PSEBA to be a post-employment benefit, meaning that PSEBA benefits will attach on the date that it is determined that an officer’s injury is “catastrophic” and therefore eligible for a line-of-duty disability pension, not on the date of injury.

The relevant portion of the Act is set out below:

An employer who employs a full-time law enforcement…officer…who…suffers a catastrophic injury or is killed in the line of duty shall pay the entire premium of the employer’s health insurance plan for the injured employee, the injured employee’s spouse, and for each dependent child of the injured employee until the child reaches the age of majority…820 ILCS 320/10(a).

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know that. I thought it was the other way around. Thanks though.

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