The Illinois FOP Labor Council

The Labor Council provides full union representation: negotiating and enforcing contracts, improving salaries, working conditions, and benefits for law enforcement professionals throughout Illinois. Our members are protected 24 hours a day by a staff of full-time, in-house attorneys and field representatives who have a proven track record of winning.

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By Jerry Lieb, Field Supervisor - Thursday, May 17, 2018

 

PSEBA benefits are found in 820 ILCS 320/10, which was passed into legislation in 1997. This Act requires the Employer of full-time law enforcement, correctional or correctional probation officers to provide free health insurance coverage for any officer catastrophically injured or killed in the line of duty. The Act requires the Employer to pay the entire premium of the employee’s health insurance plan for the injured employee, the injured employee’s spouse and for each dependent child until they reach the age of 25 if the child continues to be dependent for support or is a student. The surviving spouse is to remain covered until she remarries.

For clarification, the health insurance plan does not include supplemental benefits that are not part of the basic group insurance plan. Supplemental benefits can be vision, dental or term life insurance and would not be covered. Further, health insurance benefits from any other source will reduce benefits payable under this Act.

The Illinois Municipal League (IML) took the position that catastrophic injury must be an injury that prevents an officer from performing meaningful work. That question was finally resolved at the Appellate Court Level when the legislative notes were presented.   Laura Kent Donahue, who was the author of the legislation, clarified the definition of catastrophic with the following statement during the 68th Legislative Day, November 14, 1997, session to pass this legislation over the veto of the Governor:

“I’d like to say for the sake of the record what we mean by catastrophically injured. What it means is that it is our intent to define “catastrophically injured” as a police officer or firefighter who, due to his injuries, has been forced to take a line-of-duty disability. That’s what we mean, and would simply request that you—well, wait, there’s one more point that I think is really important. There is a possibility – a very real possibility – that we will lose federal funds to the tune of about seventeen million dollars a year if we don’t pass this legislation or override the Governor, and I just make that a request and ask for a favorable roll call”

Since this legislation passed, the Illinois Municipal League (IML) has consistently attempted to change the definition of ““catastrophically injured” to make it nearly impossible for injured officers to receive this benefit as demonstrated by the sample ordinance language being distributed by the IML to their membership of municipalities around the state.

These following definitions are contained in the sample ordinances:


 

 

When you look at the table above, which compares the catastrophic injury definition as found in the sample ordinance the IML is providing to municipalities around the state to the State Statute, it demonstrates how they want to diminish this benefit for injured officers. This move by the IML goes contrary to the law. There was a lawsuit where the City challenged the term catastrophic injury as being vague. Krohe v. City of Bloomington, 204 Ill.2d 392, 395. The Court ruled against the City of Bloomington, citing the clarification of the term in the legislative record as cited above. Id. at 400.

There are some court decisions that have ruled that the municipalities could require forms to be filled out when requesting this benefit and also require annual updates to see if any of the injured officer’s conditions have changed. Be aware that even though the statute is silent as to a time limit for the injured officer to file for this benefit, the IML’s sample language imposes a time limit of thirty (30) days to file the application.

Another decision came out that defined Medicare as a supplemental benefit and based on this decision, an officer receiving the PSEBA benefits, once he qualified under Medicare, will have his benefits under the Act reduced or ceased. Pyle v. City of Granite City, 2012 IL App (5th) 110472, 6. That ruling also stated that the Employer was not obligated to provide a Medicare supplement. Id. at 7-8.

The purpose of this article is to alert our officers that right now at least 11 jurisdictions have adopted the IML sample ordinance and we are sure many other jurisdictions will follow suit. Their definition of catastrophic injury is not consistent with the State Statue and we can only assume that their intent is to dissuade injured officers from filing for this benefit which will perhaps lead to a lawsuit and give them another chance to litigate and diminish this benefit.