Full-time police or firefighters are not compensated for work injury under Chapter 85 of the Iowa Code.  Because of the special demands of these types of public employment, Iowa has established a combined retirement and disability system administered by a special board that is much different than the workers’ compensation court.  Let’s start with a comparison of the two.

The Workers’ Compensation Court

The Division of Workers’ Compensation, in the Department of Workforce Development, is Iowa’s workers’ compensation court where claims for compensation under Chapter 85 are filed and decided after a trial.  The Division has 12 judges who hear trials as individuals and issue a written verdict after trial.  These judges are called “Deputy Commissioners.”  They are hired through a civil service process, and historically they have been quite favorable to those claiming compensation for work injury.  A deputy’s trial verdict can be appealed to the Commissioner of Workers’ Compensation.  The Commissioner is a political appointee of the governor, so the Commissioner’s treatment of appeals can reflect the overall philosophy of the party holding the governorship.  An appeal decision by the Commissioner can be appealed to the courts, which decide whether the final agency decision is within the bounds of the laws provided in Chapter 85 of the Code.  More on that process in future posts.

The 411 Board

Chapter 411 of the Iowa Code establishes a combined board to govern the police and fire retirement and disability system, and Chapter 410 provides for retirement benefits, and compensation for work injury for full-time employees.  While an individual judge working for the board may hear and decide a claim of work injury by a cop or firefighter, an appeal from such a decision goes to this board of 9 members.  The 411 board is interesting in that none of its members are political appointees.  The board consists of two firefighters (one active, one retired), two police officers (one active, one retired), and four city officers (like a city treasurer or city clerk).  These members are chosen by the firefighters’ union, the police union, and the Iowa League of Cities.  The ninth member is from the general public, and chosen by vote of the other 8.

Generally speaking, the board is sympathetic to claims of injury and disability by our public safety employees.  But there are situations where representation before the 411 board is recommended, and the Ellis Law Office stands ready to assist.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE—If you are injured while helping out as a volunteer firefighter, then you are entitled to compensation.  You should know that an injured volunteer firefighter comes under Chapter 85, in the regular workers’ compensation court, not the police/fire board.  Chapter 85 also applies to reserve police officers.  You should also know that Chapter 85 provides for special ways to calculate compensation that can enhance your recovery.  You should consult legal counsel if you suffer injury as a volunteer firefighter or reserve police officer, and the Ellis Law Offices, P.C. is ready to help.

Stay tuned for more information on truckers and workers’ compensation claims. 

This information does not develop an attorney-client relationship and is not legal advice.  You should consult with an attorney for advice on any estate planning.   

Author: Peter M. Sand

Ashley Allen