A hometown newspaper with a local office, local owners & lots of local news

Across Carlton County, disability claims hit hard

It’s not only metro area police departments that are seeing a rise in public safety employees claiming disability since the state changed its rules about job-induced post traumatic stress disorder.

As reported in the July 30 issue of the Pine Knot, Cloquet has seen seven officers retire on disability since 2019 — when the new ruling went into effect — nearly a third of the department.

Although the Public Employees Retirement Association covers approved disability payments, according to state law the employer is required to continue to provide insurance and pay its portion of costs until the disabled worker turns 65.

Cloquet now must budget an additional $105,495 a year to cover the insurance payments for the seven disabled officers. Cloquet finance director Nancy Klassen provided an actuarially determined figure of $3.2 million for the long-term costs of the insurance payment for the former employees if all seven keep insurance at current levels.

Other local agencies have also been affected by disability retirements.

Moose Lake city administrator Katie Bloom said the city is paying insurance on behalf of three former police officers at a cost of $4,122 a month or $49,464 annually. When fully staffed, Moose Lake employs four police officers and a police chief, so the equivalent of more than half their force retired on disability.

Cloquet Area Fire District chief Matt Ashmore said the fire district has two non-employees receiving benefits at a total cost of $36,000 per year. Full-time staff for the CAFD consists of 27 operational line duty staff, operating on three shifts and four administrative staff.

Carlton County has two former deputies out on disability retirement out of about 21 staff (which doesn’t include administrators, 911 or jail employees). Insurance costs for the two are just under $3,800 a month, county coordinator Dennis Genereau said.​​