Membership Benefits Program rolls out new legal defense plan
By DEBORAH A. MILES
PEF members may be eligible for a new legal defense benefit that can help reduce attorney fees, if you are arrested and charged with a crime while working.
Scott Harms, administrator of the PEF Membership Benefits Program (MBP), said the legal defense benefit will be available to members beginning April 1, 2018.
“The benefits of union membership keep expanding when you are a dues-paying PEF member,” Harms said. “The legal defense benefit is just another example and there are more benefits to come that will provide exceptional educational opportunities as well as a benefit that will help people be more financially savvy.”
Harms noted that MBP is a self-funded trust and a separate entity from PEF, as member dues are not used to pay for MBP programs and benefits.
To be eligible for the legal defense benefit, a member must be arrested and the crime must be defined by state Penal Law, and the incident must take place while the person is working in a PS&T unit position, and not on leave or during a break.
Members in this situation may be able to receive up to $1,000 if the most serious charge is for a misdemeanor, and up to $3,000 for a felony. You must provide proof of the arrest such as copies of tickets or criminal complaints. You also must provide proof that you have retained an attorney to represent you, and a copy of the attorney’s retainer agreement that includes attorney fees.
Harms said members are only eligible for one benefit per incident, regardless of the number of crimes you are charged with per incident.
“MBP will also determine if the facts surrounding the incident occurred during the course of your employment. If your claim is denied by MBP, you may file an appeal request to the MBP trustees within 30 days of the denial receipt,” Harms said.
He added that MBP will pay no more than $200,000 in the aggregate per calendar year to all beneficiaries under the Legal Defense Benefit.
PEF President Wayne Spence said, “When a situation arises that requires an attorney, it often causes anxiety. This new benefit is another way PEF supports its members through MBP.”
Spence also noted a separate legal defense benefit is available for PEF members working in agencies under the jurisdiction of the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs.
He said if you or another PEF member is notified of being the subject of a Justice Center investigation or substantiated report, the first thing to do is call your field representative. The field rep will help you prepare for the interrogation, and if necessary will refer you to an attorney at Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman. That attorney will represent you through the appeals process from the hearing to the administrative decision, free of charge.
Spence urged members to stay tuned to their union as more benefit packages are in the works as PEF continues to strive to be an integral part of all their lives.
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