Every year, more than 6 million working Americans experience a short-term disability due to illness or injury. According to the Council for Disability Awareness, the chances of missing work because of an illness or injury are greater than expected. About one in four of today’s 20-year-olds can expect to be out of work for a period of time because of a disabling condition.
As grim as this sounds, as a Colorado PERA member, you have access to a disability program in the event that you cannot work due to an illness or accident. This is in addition to coverage your employer may provide. You automatically become eligible to apply after earning five years of service credit. (Judges and Safety Officers have different requirements.) If you need it, you’ll have access to short-term disability coverage or a disability retirement, depending on your disabling condition.
There is no cost to you. You don’t have to pay any additional premiums or fees; the benefits are built into your PERA membership. However, keep in mind:
- Timing matters: You must apply for PERA’s disability program within 90 days after you leave PERA-covered employment.
- No second chances: If you miss the 90-day window to apply, you are no longer eligible for PERA’s disability coverage.
Because timing is so critical, if you are leaving PERA-covered employment because of a medical condition, consider applying for a disability benefit as soon as possible so you don’t miss the 90-day window. You can even apply while you are still working. Don’t wait until your workers’ compensation or employer-sponsored disability coverage ends. By then it could be too late to apply for coverage with PERA.
Detailed information on PERA’s disability program including the link to apply online is available on the Disability Benefits page on copera.org.