The Public Employee Disability Act (PEDA), codified under 5 ILCS 345/, is an Illinois law that provides financial assistance to first responders and other qualified employees, such as correctional officers, who get injured in the line of duty. Although first responders are generally aware of PEDA, they are often not sure about how to qualify for benefits, nor the proper amount of these benefits. PEDA Attorney and Workers’ Compensation Attorney, Brent Eames, has prepared this handy checklist to ensure that your rights to PEDA benefits are being properly enforced.
Who qualifies for benefits under the Public Employee Disability Act?
Any law enforcement officer, firefighter, or paramedic can qualify for benefits under PEDA if he or she is employed on full-time basis and is working for the State of Illinois, any unit of a local government, state-supported college or university, or any public entity granted the power to employ persons for such purposes. Full-time or part-time employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections, Prisoner Review Board, Department of Human Services working within a penal institution or State mental health, or developmental disabilities facility operated by the Department of Human Services can also qualify if their injuries were sustained as direct or indirect result of violence by inmates, or residents of metal or developmental health facility.
The only exception would be Chicago’s first responders, because according to the statute, it does not apply to units with a population of over 1,000,000. This would also include employees of the County of Cook.
What Benefits are Provided by PEDA?
If you qualify for PEDA benefits, you will be entitled to obtain compensation in the amount of your full salary received prior to the date of the injury. Due to the fact these payments are in the nature of workers’ compensation benefits, they should be provided tax free.
The Act provides that the benefits to qualifying employees can be paid for a total of 365 days. This does not mean that such benefits shall be paid for concurrent days. Frequently, injured first responders work light duty following an injury. When this happens, your PEDA eligibility will be paused until you are once again completely restricted from working. The benefits will then resume until the expiration of 365 days.
It is worth noting that due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, many qualified PEDA beneficiaries could not obtain treatment within the statutory proscribed time limit due to closures of medical facilities and delays with surgeries or other scheduled medical procedures. Thus, in August of 2020, the Illinois legislature passed an amendment to PEDA which added a 60-day extension to benefits of the employees who experienced delays in recovery due to circumstances directly or indirectly attributable to COVID-19.
Under PEDA, no deductions are made for sick leave, vacation days, or overtime accumulations. In addition, PEDA beneficiaries continue to accumulate service benefits in their pension fund.
Any compensation for the PEDA beneficiaries due under the Workers’ Compensation Act will revert to the employers during the time PEDA benefits are received.
No working allowed while receiving PEDA!
Most importantly, PEDA beneficiaries cannot engage in any employment while they receive the benefits under the Act. It is irrelevant whether the employment is for compensation, or is done on a voluntary basis. If a PEDA beneficiary violates the applicable provisions of the statute, he or she forfeits the benefits from the time the employment begins.
When do my PEDA benefits end?
After 365 days of pay, your PEDA benefits should end according to the statute. Once PEDA benefits terminate, you should still be eligible to receive temporary disability benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. These benefits have no termination date, and they should continue until you are no longer temporarily disabled from work. However, these benefits will only pay 2/3 of your average weekly wage as opposed to 100%. So, it is important to be prepared for this transition when the time comes so your employee benefits remain protected.
If the employee did not fully recover from the injury sustained in the line of duty but PEDA benefits stopped, such employee can apply for line-of-duty disability pension benefits under the Illinois Pension Code.
Applying for disability benefits can appear confusing and burdensome. However, Eames Injury Law, Ltd., is here to help first responders and other qualified employees claim all the disability benefits they are entitled to.
Consult an Illinois Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you were injured on duty and are wondering what steps to take, Eames Law Group can help.
Don’t give the claim handlers the chance to take advantage of you. Call Brent Eames at 312-818-2855 to discuss your rights and protect your benefits.