Disability Retirement

Overview

If you are an active member of ACERA and you are injured or ill severely enough to force you to stop working, and if it is permanent, you may apply for Disability Retirement. The Board of Retirement will determine whether you are capable of substantially performing the duties of your position. If the Board determines you are eligible, you will be granted a disability retirement benefit.

If you are an active member of ACERA and you are injured or ill severely enough to force you to stop working, and if it is permanent, you may apply for Disability Retirement. The Board of Retirement will determine whether you are capable of substantially performing the duties of your position. If the Board determines you are eligible, you will be granted a disability retirement benefit.

The information contained in this section is not intended to be all inclusive. The statements in this guide are general in nature and are written to be as understandable as possible while remaining accurate. The retirement law is very complex, and if conflict arises, any decision will be based on the law and not on the text from this website. No statement in the ACERA Disability Retirement Overview section is considered a legally binding interpretation, enlargement, or amendment of the provisions contained in the County Employees’ Retirement Law of 1937 (‘37 Act) or ACERA Bylaws.

For more information about Disability Retirement download the PDFs below.

Overview

Eligibility and Disability Types

Eligibility Requirements

Disability retirement eligibility requires the following:

  1. Current ACERA membership (contributions still on deposit)
  2. Permanent incapacitation from performing your usual duties
  3. Five (5) years of ACERA Participating Employer service credit, includes reciprocal agency service. (Non-Service Connected only)

Types of Disability Retirement

There are two possible disability retirements:

  1. Service Connected Disability (SCD) - Permanent incapacitation from performing usual Duties resulting from an injury/illness arising out of your ACERA-covered or reciprocal agency employment. You have the burden of proving the disability is service connected.
     
  2. Non-Service Connected (NSCD) - Permanent incapacitation from performing usual Duties, although the Duties did not substantially contribute to your injury/illness. For this type of disability, you must be a vested member. This means you have a non-forfeitable right to receive an ACERA retirement benefit upon accumulating five (5) full years of credited service.
Overview

Disability Retirement Process

Step 1: O​btain the Application

Obtain the Disability Retirement Application, a multi- page form , by contacting ACERA by mail at 475 14th Street, Suite 1000, Oakland, CA 94612, ATTN: Disability Unit, or by phone at 1.800.838.1932.

Step 2: Complete the Application

ACERA’s Role

ACERA serves as the administrator of your Application process and of the disability retirement allowance, should it be granted. The ACERA Disability Unit (D.U.) is within our Benefits Department and employs Retirement Specialists, who will facilitate your Application process by providing you with the Application, conducting an intake counseling session, following up with the Medical Advisor (M.A.), the Employer, and the Board, and ensuring the administrative process moves in accordance with applicable law, ACERA D.U. policy, and the ACERA Disability Retirement Procedures.

Your Role

To achieve the goal of submitting a Completed Application, you must carefully read and respond to all questions in the Disability Application.  Full instructions are in the Application. Listed below are the areas of information needed for the completion of your Application.

  1. General Information. We need your contact information and social security number. Please, fill it out thoroughly. This enables us to communicate with you regarding your case. If you change your address and or phone number, please contact us with your new information.
  2. Application Type. Indicate whether your Application is SCD or NSCD. Under the SCD section, you may indicate if you want to be considered for an NSCD, in the event your disability is found not service connected. You must have five years of credited service to be eligible for an NSCD.
  3. Reciprocity. As indicated in this section of the Application, if you are a deferred member and have filed a disability Application with your current Employer’s retirement system, you only need provide verification that your disability has been approved, whether it’s SCD or NSCD, the Effective Date, your final average salary, and benefit amount from the reciprocal agency granting the benefit.
    Each system is required to pay its proportional share of the benefit based on the total amount that would have been paid had all service been in one agency. If you are receiving a disability benefit with PERS (Public Employees’ Retirement System), speak to a Retirement Specialist about your ACERA benefit prior to applying.
  4. Current Status and Expedited Process. Let us know if you are already retired or if your current state of health will require an expedited process.
  5. Effective Date. This will be the date you filed your Application and it is accepted by ACERA or your last day of compensation, whichever is later. If you file your Application later than your last day of compensation, you may request that an Earlier Effective Date be considered. You must provide medical documentation, with your submitted Application, supporting your request. It must state that your disability has been continuous since you left service. You may also request an Earlier Effective Date, if you believe there was an administrative oversight.
  6. Buy Back Option. If you are applying for an NSCD, you must have five (5) years of credited service with ACERA. If you do not have five (5) years, and you have eligible service available to purchase that will provide a total of five (5) years, the purchase of that service must be complete prior to filing your Application. A Retirement Specialist can assist you in determining whether or not you have eligible service credit to purchase.
  7. Notice of Right to Legal Representation. You are not required to have an attorney, but you are entitled to legal representation at your own expense. If you are represented by legal counsel, please provide your legal counsel’s name and contact information in this section of your Application.
  8. Current Employment. Your Employer will be notified when your Application is submitted. Please provide the current employment information requested in this section of the Application.
  9. Current Work Status with an ACERA Participating Employer.  Please provide accurate information regarding your pay status, if you are still employed. This information is important because it will assist in determining your Effective Date and allow us to counsel you on benefit coverage.
  10. Current Non-ACERA Employment. Provide all information regarding current employment in the event we must contact you regarding your current Duties, if you are working for a non-ACERA Employer.
  11. Injury/Illness. Tell us about your disability. The more complete this information is, the better the Medical Advisor (M.A.) can make a recommendation on your disability status. If you have more than one illness/injury, you may provide information and file the Application for both conditions. However, you must provide independent supporting documentation for each. You may not add an additional illness or injury later into the process without filing a new Application.
  12. Permanent Incapacity from Performing Job Duties. State the usual Duties you were actually performing at the time you became disabled and those you were required to perform. What Duties can you presently not perform as a result of your injury/ illness? Is your injury/illness permanent? How has your department accommodated you?
  13. Safety Members’ Injury/Illness. Safety Members with at least five years of credited service and whose disability is based on heart trouble, cancer, blood borne disease, or exposure to a biochemical substance may automatically be presumed to have a Service Connected Disability. Please complete this section, if it applies to you
  14. All Medical Treatment within the Past Five (5) Years. State your health plan providers and history during the last five (5) years, as well as symptoms/conditions.
  15. Previous Claims Filed. Provide information on workers’ compensation, state disability, social security, or other benefits you have applied for.
  16. Additional Information. Add anything that might help the Board decide your case
  17. Declaration. Your signature indicates you have reviewed the above with a Retirement Specialist

Your Application is considered complete when you also include the following documents:

  1. Essential Functions Job Analysis (EFJA) requested from your Employer; this is a summary of the usual Duties of your job. If you need assistance in obtaining an EFJA, please contact your Retirement Specialist.
  2. All medical documents supporting your Application, including your Medical Provider Statement(s). Give this form to your treating physician for their use in providing a medical report supporting your claim.
  3. Authorization to Obtain and Release Records: permission to release relevant records and information to ACERA for a full evaluation of your Application.

Attention to detail and thoroughness with your document submissions are of high importance. An incomplete or altered Application will not be accepted and will be returned to you in its entirety. This can result in a delay in processing your Application.

Step 3: Schedule Intake Counseling

Contact ACERA to schedule an intake counseling appointment. Bring your Completed Application to the session. All Applicants are counseled in-person by a Disability Unit Retirement Specialist who assists you throughout the Application process.

Phone intake counseling is available if you are physically unable to come to the office. 

During counseling, the following critical topics will be reviewed:

  1. Eligibility Requirements: Service Connected or Non-Service Connected
  2. Supporting Documentation
  3. Service Retirement Eligibility and Benefits
  4. Effective Date of Disability Benefits
  5. Retirement Allowance Estimates
  6. Tax Withholding/Reporting 1099®
  7. Final Retirement Allowance/Option Contract and Timeline
  8. Current Pay Status/Accruals
  9. Reciprocity
  10. Safety Member Presumption of Disability
  11. Legal Representation
  12. Documentation Needed to Process Benefits
  13. Health, Dental, and Vision Plan Coverage
  14. Current Beneficiary Designation and Death Benefits

D.U. staff will review your Application for completeness and send a Confirming Letter stating the acceptance of your Application or
requesting further documentation, as needed. When complete, staff will prepare your Disability Packet and send it to your Employer for review and Comment Paper submission. You will receive the same Packet and opportunity to comment. See Step 4.

Information will be sought from your Employer about your job Duties, injury/illness, and other pertinent data. We may need a
Pre-Employment Examination Report, Agency/Department Statement Form, Occupational Injury/Illness reports, and Medical records. Your Employer must submit the Statement to us within thirty (30) days of receiving the request.

Step 4: Employer and Applicant Review of your Disability Packet

Your Employer’s Role

Your ACERA benefits are sponsored by your Employer. Therefore, your Employer is a Party to your case and has an interest in whether or not your disability benefit is granted.

Disability Packet and Employer Notification of Application

The Disability Packet contains the Completed Application, supporting documentation, and related information, as well as a calculation of your qualifying years of service. It is sent to you and to your Employer for review.

Comment Papers (30 days)

Once the Disability Packet is received by you and your Employer, a Comment Paper may be submitted to the D.U. outlining your respective positions on the Completed Application. Possible Comment Paper topics from your Employer may include their assessment of your incapacity, a request for more information, or that the M.A. examine certain documents more closely. Possible Comment Paper topics from you may include a letter expressing your views on the Disability Packet or your current health status.

Comment Papers must be submitted within thirty (30) days of receipt of the Disability Packet. They will be marked and become a part of the Disability Packet. Please notify the D.U. in writing or by email, if you decide not to submit a Comment Paper.

First Possible I.M.E. Referral

During your Employer review period, your Employer may refer you for an Independent Medical Evaluation (I.M.E.). The Employer may also choose the health care professional who conducts the I.M.E. It is at no cost to you.

Step 5: Medical Advisor (M.a.) Evaluation And Recommendation

Next, the D.U sends the Disability Packet, any Comment Papers, and any I.M.E. reports to the Medical Advisor (M.A.) for analysis and recommendation. The M.A. is an unbiased independent consultant, who reviews the file and provides a written Report and Recommendation to ACERA’s Board of Retirement to grant or deny the Application within 45 business days of receiving the file.
Disability Process

The M.A. Report and Recommendation addresses whether you are

  1. Physically or mentally capable of substantially performing the usual Duties of your job
  2. Permanently incapacitated
  3. Incapacitated and the source is Service Connected or Non-Service Connected
  4. Physically or mentally capable of substantially performing the usual Duties of your job from the date you discontinued service and have been continuously disabled since that time
  5. Capable of performing another position based on the treating physician’s restrictions

If you are recommended for disability, the M.A. Report also addresses whether you will be required to undergo annual medical
examinations.

Second Possible I.M.E. Referral

The M.A. may request additional documents/information from the D.U and make referrals for your examination by an I.M.E. An extension of time for the M.A. Report and Recommendation is triggered by a consultation referral or requests for information.

Step 6: Notice of M.A. Recommendation

Within ten (10) days of receipt of the M.A. written Report and Recommendation (Report), the D.U. will send a copy of the M.A. Report to all Parties, along with a Request for Hearing Form.

The case can go in one of two directions at this point in your Application process as stated below:

  1. The M.A. will recommend you for a disability retirement and if there is no objection from any Party, the case will go before the Retirement Board. If this occurs, proceed to Step 8; or
  2. The M.A. does not recommend you for disability retirement or your case in contested by a Party, proceed to Step 7.

Step 7: Legal Hearing

If your case is contested or the M.A. does not recommend a disability benefit, you may choose to have your case heard before a Hearing Officer. Your Employer may request a Hearing, as well, if they do not agree with the M.A. recommendation.

If any Party desires that their case be heard before a Hearing Officer they must request it within fourteen (14) days of service of the
M.A. Report and Recommendation. If you or another Party desires a Hearing, fill out the Request for Hearing Form. The request must be signed by the Party requesting the Hearing.

Role of the Hearing Officer

The H.O. conducts a Hearing when the M.A. Recommendation on an Application is disputed and a Hearing is requested. Hearing Officers are obtained from a panel of an independent arbitration system, such as the American Arbitration Association. The H.O. must be a current member of the State Bar of California whose name is contained on ACERA’s approved Hearing Officer panel.

Notice of Proposed Hearing Officer

This Notice is sent by the D.U. and identifies the next assigned Hearing Officer in rotation. Parties have ten (10) days, from service of the Notice, to challenge the named Hearing Officer in writing. If a Party exercises a challenge, the next Hearing Officer in the rotation shall be assigned the case. The other Party will have ten (10) days from the service of the Notice to challenge the H.O. in writing.

Withdrawing with and without Prejudice

You may withdraw your Application at any time. However, if you do so after you are assigned a Hearing Officer, you withdraw with Prejudice. This precludes you from filing a future Application based on the same injury/illness.

Withdrawal without Prejudice

You may withdraw your Application without prejudice prior to an H.O. assignment. An Application withdrawn without prejudice is treated as though it was never submitted. A subsequent Application, including resubmission of the withdrawn Application, is considered a new Application and must meet all requirements, including timely filing requirements.

Notice of Original Hearing Date

Once selection of a Hearing Officer is final, the ACERA Office of Chief Counsel offers all Parties the option of three Hearing dates
within ninety (90) days. Once selected, the Hearing date is dubbed the “Original Hearing Date.” The ACERA Chief Counsel issues a Notice of Original Hearing Date to the Parties and the Hearing Officer stating the time and place of the Hearing. ACERA arranges for a stenographic reporter and interpreter, if needed, and use of a Hearing room.

The Hearing

Hearings are held at ACERA’s offices. The Hearing Officer must hold a Hearing within ninety (90) days from the date of their final selection, except when the ACERA Office of Chief Counsel authorizes a delayed Hearing date. Without this authorization, the appointment of the Hearing Officer is vacated and a new Hearing Officer is appointed.

The Hearing Officer has sixty (60) days from the Original Hearing Date to receive all of the evidence, both testimonial and documentary, to complete the Hearing (including any closing arguments and final briefing), and to close the record.

Hearing Officer’s Decision

The Hearing Officer will send a written report to the D.U. summarizing the evidence, findings of fact, and making a recommendation to the Board within forty-five (45) days after the Hearing is concluded and the record is closed. The document is called the Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommended Decisions and complies with the legal requirements of a civil administrative decision. The D.U. provides all Parties with a copy, once received at ACERA.

Objection to the Hearing Officer’s Decision

Any Party objecting to a Hearing Officer’s recommendation has ten (10) days after service of the Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommended Decisions to submit written objections to the D.U. The D.U. will send any objections to all Parties and provide a courtesy copy to the Hearing Officer. All Parties have five (5) days to respond, in writing, to objections, which will be incorporated into the record for consideration by the Board.

ACERA’s Chief Counsel has sole discretion to return the matter back to the Hearing Officer for consideration of the objections and modification to the Proposed Findings and of Fact and Recommended Decisions prior to the Board Consideration Date.

I Do Not Want a Hearing

If you do not submit your request for Hearing to the D.U. within the 14-day limit, the D.U. will place the matter on the calendar for the next available Board meeting, with at least fifteen (15) days notice to all Parties of the Board Consideration Date. The Disability Packet and all subsequent documentation will be submitted to the Board for consideration, along with an Administrative Report.

Step 8: Disability Unit Board Preparation

Before your Completed Application, including a copy of all the M.A. Recommendations and any Hearing Officer Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommended Decisions, is sent to the Board for a decision, the D.U. reviews the file and prepares a written report to the Board addressing the following matters:

  1. Permanent Disability whether the M.A. Recommendation and the H.O. Findings support a Board decision determining permanent incapacity from performing your usual Duties
  2. Service Connected Disability whether the M.A. Recommendation and the H.O. Findings substantiate the incapacity results from injury/illness or disease arising out of and in the course of employment
  3. Non-Service Connected Disability summary of the M.A. Recommendation(s), and any H.O. Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommended Decisions regarding the disability not being service connected. This summary also includes a discussion about the disability being attributed to intemperate use of alcoholic liquor or drugs, willful misconduct or violation of law. If you joined ACERA on or after January 1, 1988, the summary also addresses whether the disability is due to conviction of a felony or criminal activity.
  4. Return to Work whether the opportunity for accommodation or returning to work is supported by the applicable legal standard
  5. Annual Examinations if you are under age 55, whether the M.A. Recommendation and the H.O. Findings determine that annual medical exams should be required following disability retirement
  6. Effective Date of Disability recommendation of the date your disability retirement begins, which is one of three possibilities:
    1. the date your Application is deemed complete by the D.U.; or
    2. the date after the last date you received regular compensation, whichever date is later; or
    3. if an Earlier Effective Date is requested.

Step 9: Board Action

Consent Calendar Cases

If all Parties are in agreement with the M.A. Recommendation for granting your disability retirement, your case will be included on the Board Agenda as a consent item. Consent items are normal business items that are grouped together and approved as one, including service retirements and death benefit payments. They are not addressed individually during the Board meeting. However, if a Board member or the Employer chooses to address your case, it will be postponed to the following month so it can be added as a regular agenda item.

Board Consideration Date: Hearing Cases

All Parties receive notice for the Board Consideration Date, regardless of a Hearing. ACERA presents your Disability Packet to the Board on the date noticed to all Parties. The Board may immediately vote and take action or request that any Party, ACERA staff, and/or the M.A. respond to questions.

Any Party or their counsel may ask to orally present to the Board on this date and the Board has sole discretion to grant this request. Oral presentations are limited to ten (10) minutes and any other Party can immediately orally respond, but must do so within a five (5) minute time limit. Additional time for oral presentation or response is also in the Board’s discretion. New evidence or witness testimony will not be heard or received by the Board on this date.

Board Decision

Each decision is based on all admissible evidence presented to the Board, including but not limited to the M.A. Recommendation and Hearing Officer Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommended Decisions. The D.U.’s written administrative report alone is not deemed evidence by the Board.

After presentations, including consent calendar cases, the Board may take any of the following actions on your Application:

  1. Approve your Application
  2. Deny your Application
  3. Approve and adopt H.O. Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommended Decisions
  4. Refer Back to H.O. for further proceedings
  5. Refer to M.A. for additional advice or further information
  6. Refer to D.U. with instructions, such as return the matter back with specific instructions to the presiding H.O.
  7. Assign the next available H.O., if the matter has not already been heard before an H.O., with specific instructions to consider all or limited issues
  8. Take any other action which may assist the Board in making a decision on the Completed Application.
  9. Receive and review all evidence considered by the H.O. (including transcripts and affidavits, if any) and make a decision based on its own independent review of the testimony and evidence. In doing so, the Board may reject the decisions of the H.O. and make its own determinations.
  10. Conduct a Board Hearing by setting the matter for a Hearing and deciding the matter as if it had not been referred to the H.O. If the Board holds the Hearing itself, the Board will render its decision by the second regular meeting after your case is submitted.
  11. A tie vote results in a failure to find in your favor and constitutes a denial of the Complete Application or the portion of the Completed Application on which the vote is taken.

Notice of Board’s Action

The D.U. notifies the Parties and their representatives of the Board’s decision within ten (10) days of the Board Consideration Date. The Notice of Board Decision includes the decision, the date the decision was rendered, and notice of the right to judicial review. The Notice of Board Decision is sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.
Disability Process

Step 10: Disability Retirement Granted and Calculated

Your granted disability retirement can be Service Connected or Non- Service Connected and the calculations depend on the particulars of your case.

Service Connected Calculations

When you retire for Service Connected Disability, you will receive a lifetime retirement allowance payable in monthly installments, equal to one-half (50%) of your final average salary. Or, if qualified for a service retirement, you will receive your service retirement allowance, if it is greater. Your benefit amount will not exceed the limitation set forth by applicable law. Generally, each Reciprocal System calculates its respective obligations based upon your service with that entity and each adjusts its payment on a pro rata basis. No retirement system or political entity is liable for more than its just financial obligation. Your combined reciprocal benefit will not be higher than it would have been were all service credit earned in one system.

Non-Service Connected Calculations

An NSCD benefit is typically one-third (1/3) of your final average salary. However, this amount will depend on your age and service credit and is paid in monthly installments during your lifetime.

Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA)

COLA is equally applied to disability retirement grantees and regular service retirees.

Step 11: Appealing the Board’s Decision

Any Party may obtain review of the Board’s decision in a court of law by filing a Petition for Writ of Mandate (Petition) with the Superior Court of Alameda County (Superior Court) no later than the ninetieth (90th) day following the date the Board’s decision is finalized. An extension will be granted if you request the record within ten (10) days of the decision.

A copy of any Petition filed must be served on all Parties and the ACERA Office of Chief Counsel.

IMPORTANT:

The process of seeking judicial review through a petition is a complex legal proceeding and it is beyond the scope of this website section or the Handbook. However, ACERA recommends that you seek the advice of an attorney. Please note that strict deadlines apply to petitions, so you must act promptly to avoid waiving valuable rights.

Non-Service Connected Disability Retirement Pending Review of Right to Service Connected Disability Benefits

If the Board determines you are entitled to a Non-Service Connected Disability retirement, you may accept a Non-Service Connected Disability retirement benefit while you are pursuing a rehearing or judicial review concerning your right to Service Connected Disability retirement. If later determined that you are entitled to a Service Connected Disability retirement, appropriate adjustments will be made to your retirement allowance retroactive to the Effective Date.

Step 12: Reexaminations

The Board may require you to undergo annual reviews and medical examinations, at ACERA’s expense, if you are under age 55 and granted a disability retirement. You will be required to complete a Continuing Disability Questionnaire Form, as part of this review. These examinations and records are reviewed by the M.A. who makes a recommendation to the Board regarding whether you remain permanently incapacitated for the performance of duty. The Board will determine if you are unable to perform the usual Duties of the position you held when your disability retirement was granted.

Your retirement allowance will be cancelled, if, over a period of one year, you refuse to submit to a medical examination, supply
requested information, or provide requested release forms.

Overview

Additional Important Information

Service Retirement Allowance Pending Determination of your Application

If eligible, you may apply for a regular service retirement allowance pending the determination of your Application for disability retirement.; You must be at least age 50 with ten (10) years of credited service to be eligible for a service retirement. If you are a Safety Member with 20 years of credited service, you may apply for service retirement before you reach age 50. Adjustments will be made to your allowance retirement retroactive to your Effective Date, if applicable, if you are found eligible for disability retirement.

If you are granted regular service retirement and found not entitled to disability retirement, you will not be eligible to return to your job because your employment terminates upon accepting a regular service retirement.

Neither you nor your beneficiaries may receive more than one type of retirement allowance for the same period of time.

Disability Retirement after Death

Your Beneficiary may continue your pending disability retirement Application process if you die before the Board makes a final determination on your Completed Application and/or before your Election of Disability Retirement Allowance is executed.

The Beneficiary you designate in your ACERA Service File may elect to continue the pending Application process on your behalf. This Beneficiary must be your surviving spouse/state-registered domestic partner or minor child through the age of 21, if such children remain unmarried and are regularly enrolled as full-time students in an accredited school. The Beneficiary must also complete and execute a Continuation of Disability Retirement Proceedings After Death of Member Form.

Upon a showing of good cause, the D.U. may accept such a designation after ninety (90) days, however, in all cases where no form is received, the Application will be deemed withdrawn with prejudice six (6) months after the date of your death.

Supplemental Disability Allowance

The Board may pay a Supplemental Disability Allowance in lieu of the full disability allowance if you are granted a disability retirement and accept alternate County or Participating Employer work with lower pay.  Under such circumstances, the amount of the Supplemental Disability Allowance is equal to the difference between your salary in the former position and your salary in the new position, not to exceed the amount of your approved disability benefit.

COLA adjustments are applied to your Disability Allowance when you retire.

Reciprocal Disability Benefits Processing

CERL ‘37 encourages career public service by granting reciprocal retirement benefits to eligible members. If you have worked for another California public retirement system and met necessary requirements, your membership is reciprocal. Accordingly, there is reciprocity in disability retirement benefits among Reciprocal Systems, e.g., the CERL

‘37 Act Counties, the Public Employees’ Retirement Systems (“PERS”), the State Teachers’ Retirement System, the Judges’ Retirement System, and the retirement systems of any other public agency within the State of California that has established reciprocity with PERS by meeting all necessary statutory requirements.

Generally, each Reciprocal System calculates its respective obligations based upon your service with that entity and each adjusts its payment on a pro rata basis. No retirement system or political entity is liable for more than its just financial obligation. Your combined reciprocal benefit will not be higher than it would have been were all service credit earned in one system.

Safety Member Presumption

A legal presumption is a conclusion based upon a particular set of facts.  Certain diseases/disabilities are presumed to arise out of and in the course of a Safety Member’s employment, specifically

  1. Heart trouble
  2. Cancer
  3. Blood borne disease, and
  4. Exposure to biochemical substances

IMPORTANT:

The Application and use of legal presumptions involve complex legal and technical issues and detailed analysis that are beyond the scope of this website or the Handbook. ACERA recommends that you seek the advice of an attorney. You must act promptly to avoid waiving valuable rights, if this applies to you.

Taxability

Disability retirement benefits are subject to rules and regulations by the US Treasury. While some disability retirement benefits are considered taxable income, some are not.

  1. Disability retirement allowance payments for a Non-Service Connected Disability retirement are considered taxable income.
  2. Disability retirement allowance payments for a Service Connected Disability retirement that are equal to 50% or less of your final average salary are not considered taxable income. 
  3. If you, as a disabled Member, receive a service retirement allowance higher than 50% of your final average salary, but are eligible for an SCD retirement, the difference between the service retirement allowance and the 50% of final average salary is taxable. The remainder of the benefit (i.e., the 50% of final average salary) is not taxable. SCD benefits are excluded from taxable income, but service retirement benefits are not.
  4. Service Connected Disability When a Service Connected Disability retirement is granted based on a statutory presumption that it is work-related, your disability retirement allowance is taxable and reported as such by ACERA.

IMPORTANT: State and federal tax laws are subject to change without notice. It is not the purpose of this Handbook to provide legal or tax advice.

Overview

Disability Resources

Internal Resources

ACERA Benefits Department- Disability Unit

475 14th Street, Suite 1000
Oakland, CA 94612-1900

Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Main Number: 510. 628.3000
Toll Free:        800. 838.1932

Email us

Staff

Amy Kanzaki, Retirement Benefits Specialist  510.628.3026

Planning Workshops

Pre-retirement planning and mid-career planning seminars are held
monthly, and you can enroll in seminars online. Space is limited.

ACERA Disability Retirement Member Handbook

The Disability Retirement Handbook contains information for members regarding Disability Retirement.

ACERA Disability Retirement Procedures

Available as reference. These are the complete & comprehensive disability retirement procedures.

External Resources

These resources may be helpful in pursuing your claim outside of or simultaneous with ACERA’s disability Application process.

County of Alameda Office of County Counsel

1221 Oak Street, Room 450
Oakland, CA 94612
510.272.6700

Barbara Ludden, Workers’ Compensation Administrator County Administrators Office, Risk Management Unit Alameda County Workers’ Compensation Program

125 – 12th Street, 3rd Floor
Oakland, CA 94607
510.272.6045 voice
510.272.6815 fax

Employment Development Department

800 CAPITOL MALL, MIC 83
SACRAMENTO, CA 95814
1.800.480.3287

Social Security Administration

1.800.772.1213

State Disability Insurance

1.800.480.3287

State of California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Workers’ Compensation

1.800.736.7401

Overview

Disability Definitions

Agency/Department Statement Related to Application for Disability Retirement Form

Provided to your Employer by ACERA requesting identifying, job duty, and related information from your Department. A completed form also includes a detailed statement about all efforts undertaken to find alternative employment for you within your capacity to perform, the results of this effort, or a detailed explanation why such efforts were not undertaken.

Applicant

The person or entity filing the disability Application, including an Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association Member, the Employer, the Board or its agents, or any other person on your behalf who is entitled to claim disability retirement benefits on behalf of a Member.

Application Date

The date your Application meets all requirements and is filed and accepted by ACERA.

Application for Disability Retirement

The disability retirement Application forms and associated documents you submit to ACERA to identify the exact nature of your incapacity.

Authorization to Obtain and Release Records and Information Form

Legal release providing permission to release relevant medical and employment records and information to ACERA ensuring a full evaluation of your Application.

Beneficiary

A person or entity designated to receive an ACERA benefit as a result of a legal arrangement or instrument

Board

ACERA Board of Retirement

Burden of Proof

The Burden of Proof is on the Applicant throughout the entire disability retirement Application process. This means you must prove your case throughout the Application process by a preponderance of the evidence. This includes showing a permanent incapacity (physical or mental) from your performance of duty by demonstrating substantial inability to perform your usual Duties.

  • The Burden of Proof for Non-Service Connected Disability: You must demonstrate permanent incapacity from substantially performing your regularly assigned job Duties. For Service Connected Disability retirement, you must also demonstrate that the employment contributed substantially to the disability.
  • Burden of Proof for Safety Members with five (5) or more years of serviceCertain diseases/disabilities are presumed to arise out of and in the course of employment. For these Applicants, it is presumed that your usual job Duties caused your injury/illness and the burden is now on your Employer to prove that the Duties did not cause your injury/illness.

Chief Executive Officer (formerly known as the General Manager (G.M.)

Appointed by the Board as executive manager of ACERA.

Completed Application

An Application for Disability Retirement reviewed and determined by the D.U. to include all necessary attachments and information to support your claim.

Confirming Letter

Letter from the D.U. confirming your Application is received and has been accepted as complete; or a letter accompanying your returned Application because it is incomplete and further information is required to process your claim.

Contested

A decision and/or recommendation objected to or opposed by a Party.

Continuing Disability Questionnaire Form

May be required if you are under 55-years-old and granted a disability retirement.

Continuation of Disability Retirement Proceedings After Death of Member Form

Used by spouse/domestic partner or minor who may be entitled to pursue a deceased Member’s pending disability benefit by completing this form.

County Counsel

Office of the County Counsel of Alameda County that represents and advises the County in legal matters.

Days

Calendar days are every day on the calendar, Sunday through Saturday. When “days” is intended to refer only to business days, Monday through Friday, it is noted.

Delayed Disability Application Affidavit

Submitted when applying for disability retirement more than four months after discontinuation of service to address whether disability has been continuous since the last date of service.

Designation of Legal Representation Form

Filed with the Disability Unit (D.U.) providing notice of your legal representation.

Disability Counseling Worksheet

Used by staff and signed by you, during your counseling session, to ensure all critical elements of the Application process have been reviewed with you.

Disability Packet

All relevant documentation received during the Application process, including the Completed Application.

Disability Unit (D.U.)

A team of ACERA employees who handle the processing of disability matters. The D.U. includes Disability Retirement Specialists and the Disability Manager.

Duties

The usual Duties of your position that you must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodations.

Earlier Effective Date

The disability retirement allowance begins the date your Application is deemed complete by the D.U. or the date after the last date you received regular compensation, whichever is later. You may request that your allowance start at an earlier date by completing section 5 of the Application for Disability Retirement Form and attaching documentation showing 1) when you left service, 2) an inability to ascertain the permanency of your incapacity, and 3) that you have been continuously disabled since you left service. This is the date after the last date you received regular compensation.

Effective Date

The disability retirement allowance begins the date your Application is deemed complete by the D.U. or the date after the last date you received regular compensation, whichever is later, unless an Earlier Effective Date is granted.

Employer

The public agency, including the County of Alameda or Participating Employer, by which the Member is employed at the time or immediately before, the Application is submitted to ACERA.

Essential Functions Job Analysis (EFJA) Form

An Employer’s summary of the Duties and requirements of any particular job, including mental and physical demands. This document is generally shared with the Medical Advisor and is used to determine which job(s) within a department, if any, you are capable of performing.

He, him, his, Chairman

Used for convenience and intended that each gender is given exactly equal respect and treatment throughout.

Hearing

The presentation of evidence to a Hearing Officer (H.O.) toward the development of H.O. Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommended Decisions for consideration of your Application by the Board.

Hearing Officer (H.O.)

Conducts a hearing when the Board Medical Advisor’s Recommendation on an Application is disputed and a hearing is requested. Hearing Officers are obtained for the panel from an independent arbitration system, such as the American Arbitration Association. An H.O. must be a current member of the State Bar of California whose name is contained on the approved Hearing Officer panel.

Independent Medical Examination (I.M.E.)

You may be required by your Employer, the Board of Retirement, or the M.A. to submit to a medical exam by a physician, psychologist, or specialist in the medical condition identified in your Completed Application at no cost to you.

Medical Advisor (M.A.)

The physician(s) advising the Board on disability claim medical matters

Medical Provider Statement

A brief (4 questions), but mandatory, written opinion from your physician addressing whether you are permanently incapacitated from performing your usual Duties. This must be filed with your Application.

Minor

An unmarried/unregistered person either 1) under age 18 or 2) under age 22 and regularly enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited school.

Non-Service Connected Disability (NSCD)

A type of disability retirement awarded if you are found permanently incapacitated from performing your usual Duties from a cause unrelated to your employment. You must have completed five (5) years of service and must not have waived retirement in respect to your particular incapacity or aggravation.

Notice of Hearing Officer

Communication used to state the next assigned Hearing Officer (H.O.) assigned to your case; H.O.s are assigned on a rotating basis.

Notice of Original Hearing Date

Communication used to state the time and place of your Hearing.

Participating Employers

Employers with staff who are ACERA Members: Alameda County, Alameda County Children and Families, Alameda County Housing Authority, Alameda County Medical Center, Alameda County Office of Education, Livermore Area Parks and Recreation, and Superior Court of California.

Party

The Member who is the subject of the Application, the person preparing and submitting the Application (Applicant, and the Employer.

Prehearing Statement Form

You must complete and serve this form on the H.O. and all other Parties. It must contain 1. a statement of contested issues and party position, 2. witness information and their testimony, and 3. documentary evidence not included in the Disability Packet.

Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommended Decisions

The Hearing Officer’s report on your disability Application summarizing the evidence, findings of fact, and making a recommendation to the Board.

Reciprocal Systems

Retirement systems that have established reciprocity with ACERA for providing retirement benefits. Reciprocal Systems are the CERL ’37 Counties, the Public Employees’ Retirement Systems (“PERS”), the State Teachers’ Retirement System, the Judges’ Retirement System, and retirement systems of any other public agency of the State of California that have established reciprocity with PERS by meeting all necessary statutory requirements.

Report and Recommendation

M.A. written analysis recommending the granting or denial your Application.

Request for Hearing Form

Signed by you to request a Hearing before a Hearing Officer.

Service Connected Disability (SCD)

A type of disability retirement awarded if you are found permanently incapacitated from performing your usual Duties. The incapacity must result from an injury/illness arising out of and in the course of your employment, and such employment must have contributed substantially to your incapacity.

Service File

Contains your retirement records, such as, enrollment questionnaire, beneficiary information, birth certification, etc.

Supplemental Disability Allowance

A monthly allowance paid in lieu of a full disability allowance, if you have been granted a disability benefit and have accepted alternative County or ACERA Participating Employer work with lower pay. It is equal to the difference between your salary in the former position, for which you were found disabled, and the salary of the new position. It will not to exceed the amount of the full disability benefit.

Treating Physician Narrative Form

An optional, but recommended, detailed (13 questions) written opinion from your physician addressing whether you are permanently incapacitated from performing your usual Duties. This must be filed with your Application.

Uncontested

A decision and/or recommendation that is not objected to or opposed. Uncontested does not necessarily mean all Parties are in agreement with the decision and/or recommendation. The Board retains the discretion to grant or deny an uncontested recommendation.

Withdrawal with Prejudice

Precludes you from filing a future Application based on the same disability or injury/illness. An application withdrawn after an H.O. is assigned is deemed withdrawn with prejudice.

Withdrawal without Prejudice

An application withdrawn at anytime prior to an assignment of an H.O. is treated as though it was never submitted. A subsequent Application, including resubmission of the withdrawn Application, is considered a new Application and must meet all requirements, including timely filing requirements.