G'day Crimespacers! I have an issue I'd like to ask about for my latest WIP.

 

I've got a character (Lieutenant in the Virginia Police) who's getting on in years and has now been mangled in a rather serious on-the-job incident. I might have gotten a little carried away because now the poor bastard is quite badly damaged. In Australia, he'd get early retirment since he's so close to the retirement age anyway although he wouldn't get as much super (our version of 401K). He'd probably have to go on welfare or something to make ends meet.

 

But since my character is American, I now have a technical issue. What is the retirement age for cops in America? Does the fact that his injury occured during an arrest mean that he is entitled to any benefits? Is he allowed to retire early (he's 54)? And, if he can't retire, can cops in America ease into retirement by switching from full to part-time?

 

These are my questions and I would appreciate the help. I don't need to know for the current WIP, but I mean to have this character in later works and he is pretty important - so what happens to him now will affect the rest of the series.

 

Cheers for your help guys!

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Thta's good to hear mate. He isn't actually technically disabled, although some of his limbs will be hurting for quite a while. I know America has a dodgy system where you've got to pay out of the nose to get treatment, so I guess if the income he receives is minimal, then bills would probably be an issue. Can you subsidise medical costs in America (physio, etc) if the injury occurs at work? Or would he be stuck with the bill?
There are a lot of people who fall through the safety net here, but it sounds to me like he would be eligible for disability, and it's also likely that, because of his position, he would have more access to healthcare even in retirement.

Our "dodgy" system is dodgy because it's a patchwork. Unionized employees have a greater safety net than others. But even union contracts have holes that can leave individuals stranded. I mean, one insurance provider might have great physio benefits, another might have it only with certain limits. (Often policies from the same company, offered by the same employer, have wide differences.)

Also, we have some excellent disability laws on the books.... but again, how it's handled varies widely. I have a friend who works in disability services for the Social Security Administration, and the paperwork and red tape can be a nightmare, especially for the newly disabled. (I believe, though, that once you have officially reached disabled status, you get medicaid.) But I would expect health care to be a part of his disability retirement from his employer. AND we have a law that when you leave a job, you get to keep your insurance for a year (though you have to pay the premiums yourself. The program is called COBRA, and you could check that out on Google and Wikipedia too.)

You could probably justify just about any scenario that would fit your story, although having him completely without resources would take some explaining.
I wasn't planning on leaving him out to dry, I just wanted to make sure I have a good idea of the kind of lifestyle he could expect. I hate it when writers just make stuff up - even if it's fiction, I want it to be based in reality.

Good point about the red tape, too. I hadn't thought of that aspect of it. Cheers!
I'm not an expert, but my understanding is that it would vary somewhat from department to department: typically you'd be eligible for full retirement benefits after twenty years on the job, though for some departments in some cities it might be 25 or even 30 years. Yes, an officer injured on the job would be eligible for disability benefits along with his pension. The police in every major city in the U.S. are unionized, so they generally have decent retirement and disability benefits written into their contracts. As a lieutenant, my guess is that he'd be in good shape at 54: lots of police officers are able to retire in their late forties or early fifties. One thing I know for sure is that there's no such thing as the "Virginia Police." Do you mean the Virginia State Police? If so, they have a useful website here: http://www.vsp.state.va.us/
I meant a police precinct in the state of Virginia, but I get why I confused you. I didn't know cops could retire so young in America! In Australia the minimum age is 67. Well, if that's the case then I wont worry too much about him drawing early retiement - he can have regular retirement.
Which city in Virginia?
One I made up. It was far less confusing that way. But it's a coastal town
A lot of cops retire in their forties, after serving their twenty. (I used to do law enforcement related consulting.) Your guy is old enough to retire unless he got a really late start.
Nope, no late start. I just didn't realise cops could get out so early! Is it common for police officers to leave the minute they hit retirement age, or do some stay on?
Many do stay on. It's always been my impression though that the more successful cops are the ones who are most likely to stay on, the ones who make it into upper management.
So a 54yr old Lieutenant is odd?
The department in law enforcement I have worked for it was usually a minimum of 25 years service or age 55. In most cases if the disability was only partial, they would give him a desk job until he was old enough to retire.

Garry-

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