An active member may apply for disability retirement benefits from the System or the Chief of the Department for whom the active member works may file for disability retirement for individual members. The Chief may apply in cases where, in the judgment of the Chief, the member is no longer able to perform the necessary functions of a police officer or fire fighter.
To be eligible for a disability benefit, the member must be a "Member in Good Standing," which means a member in service who is not subject to removal by the employing city pursuant to Iowa Code sections 400.18 or 400.19 or other comparable processes, and who is not the subject of an investigation that could lead to such removal. Except as specifically provided pursuant to Iowa Code section 411.9, a person who is restored to active service for purposes of applying for a pension under this chapter is not a Member in Good Standing. This requirement may be waived for good cause as determined by the Board of Trustees. The burden of establishing good cause is on the member.
The complete disability process contains a number of steps which are designed to facilitate a decision in the case that is consistent with the requirements of the governing statute and which protects the rights of the member and their employing city.
- INITIATION OF APPLICATION: The process originates as a request for application to the retirement system by the member or the chief of the department. The retirement System sends an application to the member or chief. Included with the application for disability retirement is a form, "Questions and Answers Concerning 'Ordinary' and 'Accidental Disability' ".
- ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESSING: Forms are completed and forwarded to the retirement System. If the forms are not complete, they will be returned for completion. When all forms are completed, a letter is sent to the member, Chief of the department, and City Administration stating that an application has been received. The package shall include copies of medical records from all of the relevant physicians. If medical records are not included, the System contacts the listed physicians for copies of the files on the individual and requests any films be sent to the Medical Board. Copies of the medical information and application are forwarded to the Medical Board for review.
- SCHEDULING OF APPOINTMENTS: Upon receipt of a completed application, and after sufficient medical information has been forwarded to the Medical Board, the System establishes an appointment for the applicant to be seen by the Medical Board in Iowa City. The member is notified by phone and in writing of the appointment and given general instructions about where to go, who will pay for the appointment, how much time will be required to complete the examination, and information about reimbursement for travel expenses.
- MEDICAL BOARD EXAMINATION: The Medical Board, consisting of one physician from the University of Iowa Occupational Medicine Clinic and one physician from each medical department (as required) examine the member and performs relevant tests and examinations pertaining to the difficulty the member is having. The Medical Board submits a letter of recommendation to the System based on their findings as to whether or not the member is found to be "permanently" disabled (defined as a condition that will continue for at least one year).
- ADMINISTRATIVE COMMENT: Upon receipt by the retirement System, the Medical Board's letters and supporting notes are distributed to the member and to the employing city for review. The member and the City may forward written statements to the retirement System pertaining to the medical aspect of the letters within ten days of their transmittal. If information is contained within the written statements received from the City or the member which requires medical comment, the Executive Director may, prior to making a determination, solicit the Medical Board review and comment concerning the information.
- ADMINISTRATIVE DETERMINATION: The Medical Board's letters and supporting tests, as well as the member's file, are reviewed by the Executive Director who makes a determination of disability. Upon reaching a determination, letters are sent to the member, the member's department chief, and to the city with the determination and copies of the letters submitted by the Medical Board (see Note 1 below). Included with the determination letter is the form, "Questions and Answers Regarding Regulatory Requirements: Taxation, Earnings Test, and Re-examination for Return to Work".
- APPEAL RIGHTS: The member and/or the city may appeal the decision, in writing, within 30 days of the date of the initial letter of determination. Notice of the hearing shall be given at least thirty days prior to the scheduled date of the hearing
- APPEAL COMMITTEE: If an appeal is filed, an appeal hearing is established with a committee made up of three members of the Board of Trustees. System Exhibits for the hearing are provided to each party to the appeal prior to the date of the hearing. Hearings are conducted in accordance with the MFPRSI Administrative Rules. Both the member and the city have the right to bring evidence and testimony before the committee.
- BOARD OF TRUSTEES: The Appeal Committee sets forth a statement of the case, findings of fact, the recommended decision, and brings a recommendation to the full Board of Trustees at the next meeting of that body for discussion and the Board's decision. The decision of the Board on behalf of the System is distributed to all parties.
- JUDICIAL REVIEW: If either party to the appeal disagrees with the decision of the Board of Trustees, a certiorari action may be filed in District Court. The Court's review is limited to questions of law.
Note: The date the original decision is made is the date that benefits will begin (if applicable). If benefits are approved, and the decision is appealed, the member continues to receive payments pending the outcome of the appeal. If, after the appeal process is concluded, the award of disability is overturned, the member may be required to repay the amount already received, or upon later retirement, may have payments suspended until the amount is recovered by the System.