Veteran, Military, Law Enforcement & Fire Personnel Lawyer
Law Enforcement, Military & Fire Personnel Administrative and Medical Disability Actions
(The following is not legal advice and only an overview of the law. You must consult an attorney to form any kind of attorney-client relationship).
Especially when you have military and Veteran-related issues, contact us as Citizen Soldier Law zealously guards the rights of law enforcement officers and firefighters when they are facing administrative discipline issues or medical disability actions. Attorney Thomas Roughneen has decades of experience as a military lawyer and New Jersey Assistant Prosecutor and in private practice protecting civil servants and the needs of National Guard members, reservists, medical professionals, law enforcement officers and first responders. You have too much at stake to try and navigate administrative or medical disability actions on your own. Get help from an experienced legal professional dedicated to seeing that you are treated fairly and receive a favorable result. Call Citizen Soldier Law for assistance.
Administrative discipline for LEOs, firefighters and public employees
If you are accused of conduct that could warrant discipline, you are entitled to due process before any decision is made at the department level. Due process means that you are notified of the complaint against you and given an opportunity to respond to the charges. You should be allowed to present evidence and testimony on your behalf and argue against the imposition of a particular level of discipline or any discipline at all.
If your agency decides to continue the discipline process, and you pursue judicial review, the Office of Administrative Law assigns an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to hear your case. You are entitled to be advised and represented by an attorney of your choosing at this hearing and any subsequent proceedings.
The ALJ decision is delivered to the head of your agency. The agency can affirm, modify or reject the ALJ disposition of the case. Typically, the agency has 45 days to affirm, reject or modify the decision, or it becomes final.
If the discipline imposed constitutes “major discipline” (demotion, removal, or a fine or suspension of more than five working days), you have 20 days to appeal the decision to the Civil Service Commission. The Commission can accept, reject or modify the lower decision. You can further appeal the Commission’s decision to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, and to the New Jersey Supreme Court after that.
In the case of “minor discipline” (formal written reprimand, fine or suspension of five days or less), you have 45 days to petition the court to hear your appeal. Although this process is burdensome, having a disciplinary action on your record can have negative consequences down the road, so it may be in your best interests to fight even minor discipline. Your attorney can discuss the pros and cons of an appeal with you.
Medical Disability Actions
Getting disability retirement from the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) can be daunting. You must qualify as a member in service with enough service credits in the system, and you must be permanently and totally disabled from doing your job or any other position your employer might assign. You must also have been separated from employment due to the medical condition. If wrongful termination litigation is pending in your case, you could have as little as 30 days to file your claim for benefits.
To be successful, you’ll need to support your claim with quality, ample medical evidence. This includes submitting the records or testimony from two doctors or one doctor and one hospital, and you may have to submit to a medical examination ordered by PFRS. At Citizen Soldier Law, we can help you gather, organize and present your medical evidence in a compelling fashion. We are here for you at every step of your application for medical disability, including an appeal to the New Jersey Division of Pensions & Benefits.
What is the difference between ordinary disability and accidental disability benefits?
Ordinary Disability benefits are the higher of 40% of your final compensation or 1.5% of your final compensation per year of service credit. Accidental Disability benefits amount to the higher of two-thirds of your annual compensation at the time of retirement or the time of the disabling event. Accidental disability requires a traumatic event that occurred during and as a direct result of regular or assigned job duties. The event must occur at an identifiable time and place; it must be undesigned and unexpected; the circumstance must be external to the member (not an aggravation or acceleration of a pre-existing condition); and the member must not be guilty of willful negligence.
Does PFRS pay benefits for purely mental disability?
Mental incapacity caused by a nonphysical event is a complex issue. The event must be considered objectively capable of causing injury to a reasonable person under similar circumstances. It must have been terrifying or horror-inducing, posing actual or threatened death or serious injury to the member or another. You will need an expert and we work with doctors who regularly provide the necessary opinions and our staff doctor will help you find the right medical professional in the appropriate field of study.
Are my medical disability benefits reduced if I receive other benefits?
Benefits are reduced dollar-for-dollar for workers’ compensation benefits you receive. However, receiving Social Security or private insurance will not reduce your benefits. Also, disability retirement benefits are exempt from federal income tax and are not subject to New Jersey income tax until the member turns 65.
Can I be forced into retirement?
If you qualify for disability retirement, the agency may impose Involuntary Disability Retirement. If you have more than 20 years of service, your benefits for ordinary (non-accidental) disability will be 50% of your final compensation plus three percent for every year of service between 20 and 25 years.
Help is Here for Law Enforcement, Military & Fire Personnel Administrative and Medical Disability Actions
You put your life on the line in the service of your community, and you deserve to be treated fairly. If you are law enforcement or fire personnel facing administrative discipline or medical disability actions, call Citizen Soldier Law to protect your rights and work toward a positive outcome in your case.