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AUG 08 2007 January 2006


1515 E. 6th AVE.


Montana State Library

3 0864 1004 0557 3


State of Montana

Brian Schweitzer, Governor

Public Employees' Retirement Board

Statutory Designation Location Expires

(§2-15-1009, iMC A)

Carole Carey

Active Public Employee

Bett)^ Lou Kasten Member at Large
Vice President

Robert Griffith Member at Large

Troy W. McGee PERS Retired Member

Jay Klawon Investment Experience

Terrence Smith Active DC Plan Member

John Paull Active Public Employee















Executive Officers

Roxanne Minnehan Interim Executive Director

Kelly Jenkins Legal Counsel

Melanie Symons Legal Counsel

Kim Flatow Member Services Bureau Chief

Roxanne Minnehan Fiscal Services Bureau Chief

Kathy Samson DC Plans and Education Services Bureau Chief

Carolyn Miller Administrative Officer

Mission Statement: The Montana Public Em-
ployee Retirement Administration (MPERA)
1^^ ^, ^ ' i will efficiently proHde quality benefits, educa-
lM_gSiLk-_X^Bg. tion and service to help our plan members and
beneficiaries achieve a quaUty retirement.

Contacting the MPERA

If you have any questions about the VFCA, call or e-mail us or
visit our website.

Helena Office


(877) 275-7372

Mailing Address

P.O. Box 200131
Helena, MT 59620-0131

Office Address

100 North Park Ave.

Suite 200

Helena, MT 59620



In most cases, if you know the name of the person you are e-
mailing, use their first initial and their last name plus (^
For example. Interim Executive Director Roxanne Minnehan's
address is [email protected]

If you don't know who to contact, e-mail our "front desk" and
we'll forward your question to the right person: [email protected],

Web Site

For updated information and to view MPERA newsletters and
other publications visit us on the web at

Permission is granted to reproduce, copy or duplicate the
information in this book, provided credit is given to the



Preface 5

Montana Code 5

Introduction 6

SECTION I: Fire Companies

1. Eligibility -j

2. Required Filings 7.3

- County Clerk


3. Supplemental Insurance g

4. Formal Training Program 9

5. Late Filing of Annual Certificate 10

SECTION II: Membership |

1. Contributions 11

- Member Contributions 1 1

- State Contributions 1 1

2. Credit for Service 11-12

- Credit for Eligible Service

- Credit for more than 20 Years of Service


1 . Pension Benefits 13-14

- Full Pension Benefit

- Additional Pension Benefit

- Partial Pension Benefit

- Return to Active Service

2. Disability Retirement 15-16

- Disability Benefit

- Disability Medical Reviews

- Disability Benefit Cancellation

(continued on next page)


Table of Contents (continued)


SECTION IV: Additional Information

1. Medical Expenses

2. Funeral Expenses

3. Survivorship Benefits . .

4. Taxes on Benefits

- Tax Statements

- Tax Advice

5. Assignment of Benefits

- Family Law Orders

6. For More Information . .

Glossary of Terms

Alternative Accessible Format







This I 'olunteer Firefighters' Compensation Act (IT^CA) Handbook is a
general summaty of the benefits provided by the Volunteer
Firefighters' Compensation Act. It is intended to give you an idea
of what your benefits are and to acquaint you with the VFCA.
Every effort has been made to ensure the contents agree with the
law and rules. The law and its interpretation can change, so this
handbook may be out-of-date soon after it is published. This
handbook is not a final source of the law and rules. IT SHOULD
Information in this handbook is based on 2005 law. Benefits are
based on the law in effect at the time of your retirement date; thus,
some information found here may not apply in specific cases. If
this handbook differs from law or rules as the Board interprets
them, the law or rules will apply. This handbook replaces aU
previous VFCA member handbooks.

Montana Code

The law governing the VFCA may be found in Title 19, Chapter
17 and Title 7, Chapter 33, Montana Code Annotated (MCA). The
MCA is available on-line at:

References to the pertinent sections of the MCA and
Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM) are provided in
parenthesis throughout tliis publication.



The Volunteer Firefighters' Compensation Act (VFCA) is a public
pension plan for volunteer firefighters who are members of eligible
volunteer fire companies in unincorporated areas, towns, or villages
under the laws of the State of Montana. In 1965, the Legislature
created the VFCA to grant retirement, disabilit}^ and death benefits to
plan members and their beneficiaries.

The Public Employees' Retirement Board (Board) is an independent,
seven-member board, appointed by the Governor to administer the
VFCA, seven other retirement systems and the State's Deferred Com-
pensation Plan. The Montana Public Employee Redrement Admini-
stration (MPERA) does the day-to-day work. This handbook uses the
terms "we," "us," the MPERA and the Board interchangeably.

Because volunteer firefighters receive no pay for their services, they do
not contribute to the VFCA Pension Trust Fund. Two sources of in-
come are available to the pension trust fund: payments from the state
and income from investing the pension trust fund. Income earned
from investing the pension trust fund is reinvested in the fund. Only
the Board may authorize payment from the pension trust fund. Current
law limits payments from the VFCA fund. Authorized payments in-
clude: claims or benefits paid to members and survivors; supplemental
insurance for eligible fire companies; and administrative costs. In
addition, the Board must pay administrative expenses from the
investment earnings. (§§ 19-17-106, 19-17-301, and 19-17-302, MCA)

Every two years, an actuar}' must evaluate the trust fund's capability to
pay the benefits promised members. Benefits are set by law and are
protected by Art. VIII, §15 the of Montana Constitution (1972).

Section I: Fire £2f^g,P'QS I

1. Eligibility

For a fire company to be eligible to participate in the VFCA, docu-
ments must be sent to the MPERA that verify the requirements
have been met. (§§ 7-33-2101, 7-33-2311, 7-33-2312, 19-17-108 and 19-17-402,

The following information is required:

a. A copy of the meeting minutes from the Count)' Commis-
sioners or governing board establishing the fire district.

b. Identification of the portion of the fire district serviced by
the company.

c. Written documentation of the population of the area ser-

d. Written documentation that the fire district is located in an
unincorporated area.

e. The value of firefighting equipment and buildings owned,
rented or used by the fire company.

f The fire company's name and mailing address,
g. The fire company's list of officers and roll of active and hon-
orary' members.

2. Required Filing
County Clerk

The presiding officer or secretary' must file a list of all current year

members with the countv clerk by September 1 of each year. (§ 7-33-
2311, MCA) This certificate must also include the following informa-


a. Date the fire company was organized.

b. Name of the company.

c. List of officers, and role of active and honorary' members.


Each year, the chief or presiding officer of a fire company must file
an annual certificate of membership and fire company eligibilit)'
with the MPERA. The certificate is a turnaround document pre-
pared by the MPERA and mailed in June to aU eligible fire compa-
nies on file. Each fire company's chief or presiding officer must
complete and verify the birth date, Social Securit}" Number, entr}^
date, and training received for each member on the certificate. Only
members that received at least 30 hours of training and served
for the entire fiscal year are eligible for credit. (§ 19-17-108, MCA)

The original certificate must be notarized and returned to the
MPERA betu^een July 1 and September 1. Certificates will be kept
on file at the MPERA to verify a member's service and eligibilit}' for
benefits. Fire companies are required to maintain all training docu-
mentation and properly manage records. This ensures that all mem-
bers receive credit for their ser\4ce. The annual certificate must sup-
ply the following information:

a. The chiefs or presiding officer's signature, which confirms:

1. A formal training program was available and all listed
members completed at least 30 hours of training. (§ 7-33-
2312 and § 19-17-402, MCA)

2. Listed members served with the company during the en-
tire fiscal year (July 1 to June 30). (§§ 19-17-108 and 19-17-
402, MCA) '

3. Equipment maintained and buildings owned, rented or
used by the company were maintained in useable condi-
tion and valued at SI 2,000 or more. (§ 19-17-108, MCA)

b. The date the fire company was organized. (§ 7-33-2311, MCA)

c. Full name. Social Securit}^ Number, birth date, and service
entr)^ date for each member completing 30 hours of training.
(List only those members who serv^ed with the company for
the entire fiscal year and completed 30 hours of training.)
(§ 19-17-402, MCA)


d. In accordance with law, each fire company is limited to 28
members on their annual certificate. [§ 7-33-2311(3), MCA]

3. Supplemental Insurance

Fire companies are encouraged to carr)^ supplemental insurance to
provide benefits to members who are injured or who die in the line
of dut}^ To help pay the cost of supplemental insurance, the trust
fund will pay $75 for each unit of motorized mobile firefighting
equipment. Total payment to each fire company may not exceed
$150 per year. (§ 19-17-103, MCA)

Ever}^ November, the MPERA will send the Supplemental Group
Insurance Payments AppUcadon form to each fire company on file.
To be eligible for the payment, the company must have met the
qualifications identified on page 7 of this handbook. The application
form must be returned to the MPERA by December 31 and include
the following information:

a. The number of mobile units.

b. Proof of supplemental insurance.

c. A certified copy of the list of all members filed by the
chief/presiding officer wuth the count}^ clerk on or before
September 1.

In order to receive any medical or funeral payments, a member
must, at the time of illness, injur\^ or death, be included on the cur-
rent certified List of members on file with the count}' clerk. There-
fore, fire chiefs should file new lists of members with the count)^
clerk whenever membership changes. The current certified list, con-
taining the name of the affected member, must be on file with the
MPERA before medical or funeral expenses can be paid. (§ 19-17-103,
MCA and ARM 2.43.803)

4. Formal Training Program

Training must be available for all members. The course or plan of
instruction for this training program must include at least 30 hours
of instruction per year per member. The training will include mat-

ters pertaining to firefighting. The chief or designated officer shall
supervise the operation of the program. [§ 7-33-2313(2), MCA]

Note: Recognized training does not include business meedngs, fire
hall or vehicle maintenance, or emergency calls.

5. Late Filing of Annual Certificate

Annual certificates filed with the MPERA after the September 1
deadline must be appealed to and considered by the Board for ap-
proval to accept the certification for members of the fire company.
Information to be provided to the Board for a late filing must in-
clude: letter to the Board from the fire chief explaining why the an-
nual certificate was not submitted on time; the original, notarized
annual certificate; certified training documents; and if requested by
the fire chief, oral argument before the Board. [ARM 2.43.802(2)]

Certified training information includes:

1. Date of training

2. Title of training

3. Description of training

4. Hours of training

5. Who attended


Section II: Membership!

The duties of the volunteer firefighter include activities authorized
by an officer of the fire company which include travel to, partici-
pation in, and return from calls for the following: fire protection;
medical assistance; search and rescue assistance; and calls for as-
sistance to protect individual or public health and safet}^ It also
includes travel to and participation in fire company meetings,
training, and public service activities, such as parades. (§ 19-17-105,

1. Contributions
Member Contributions

Because volunteer firefighters who are members of the VFCA re-
ceive no pay for their services, they do not contribute to the
VFCA trust fund.

State Contributions

Once each year, the state pays the trust fund 5% of certain insur-
ance premium taxes collected during the year. (§ 19-17-301, MCA)

2. Credit for Service
Credit for Eligible Service

XX/lien a member applies for retirement, the MPERA will review
the member's entire career to ensure proper credit is granted for
all eligible service.

To be eligible for a year of ser\nce the following criteria must be
met by the fire company and the member:

a. The fire company must meet all criteria listed on pages 7 - 9.

b. The member must be listed on the original, notarized annual
certificate filed with the MPERA.


c. The member must complete at least 30 hours of training

during the fiscal year to receive credit for the service.

d. The member may transfer from one fire company to an-
other and earn credit for servdce with each company. Each
year of credit for service must be earned while serving with
one fire company for the entire fiscal year. An explanation

- A member who transfers between companies, or resigns
from ser\'ice during a fiscal year, will not receive credit
for service for that year.

- If the member resigns, or transfers, on the last day of the
fiscal year, the member will earn credit for servdce for the

e. An inactive member who later becomes active will retain
credit for any prior VFCA service.

Total service does not need to be continuous or with the same fire
company; however, for each fiscal year, service must be with the
same company. (§ 19-17-108, MCA)

Members reported on the annual certificate filed with the MPERA
must meet all VFCA requirements. Members receive one year of
credit for each full fiscal year the member belongs to an eligible
company and completes at least 30 hours of documented formal
training. To earn one year of credit for a fiscal year, a member
must serv^e with the same fire company for the entire fiscal year.
A fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30 of the following year.
One year of credit is the smallest unit of service a member may
earn. Service for part of a fiscal year does not count.


Section III: Benefits

To be eligible for pension and disability benefits under the VFCA, a
member must fulfill certain age and service requirements.

1. Pension Benefits

Full Pension Benefit

A member may retire with a full pension benefit after completing at
least 20 years of VFCA ser\dce and reaching age 55. The base pen-
sion monthly benefit is $150 per month for members eligible for the
full pension benefit. Effective April 25, 2005, a member's full pen-
sion benefit must be increased by $7.50 a month for each completed
year of active service in excess of 20 years, up to 30 total years of
service. The volunteer firefighter does not need to be an active
member of a fire company to apply for a pension benefit. (§§ 19-17-
401 and 19-17-404, MCA)

Full Pension Benefit (at least 55 years of age)

20 Years of Credited Service Monthly Benefit - % 1 50.00

Additional Pension Benefit

A member that has more than 20 years of ser\dce can draw a benefit
based on the additional years of ser\ace, up to 30 total years.

Additional Pension Benefit

Years Monthly Years Monthly Years Monthly
Service Amount Service Amount Service Amount







SI 80.00


$187,501 29


$195.00 j 30


A retired volunteer firefighter receiving a full pension benefit who
chooses to return to service with a volunteer fire company can do
so without loss of benefits provided the returning member is not
considered an active member receiving service credit.

Partial Pension Benefit

If circumstances prevent a member from completing 20 years of
service, the member may be eligible for a partial pension benefit. To
be eligible, a member must have at least 10 years of credited
service and be at least age 60.

Partial Pension Benefit (at least 60 years of age)




Monthly Years
Amount Service

























Retired members will receive the full or partial pension benefit for
life. Any member receiving a partial benefit may not be or become
an active member of a fire company without the loss of benefits ex-
cept in limited circumstances as explained below.

Note: For information on survivorship benefits, see page 18.
Return to Service

A retired volunteer firefighter who is not receiving a disabilit)^ bene-
fit under the VFCA may return to active service with a fire company
for the duration of a declared emergency. In the event of a declared
national, state, or local emergency affecting Montana, retirees can
return to ser\dce without becoming an active member of the VFCA


and without loss of benefits. The fire chief has the sole responsibil-
it)^ of deciding who may return to active service and what duties
they may perform, after an emergency has been declared. (§ 19-17-
401, MCA)

2. Disability Retirement

A duty-related injur}^ resulting in permanent and total disabilit)' will
qualify a member for a disability benefit.

Disability Benefit

Disabled members may receive disabiUt)^ benefits without regard to
age or to the number of years of servnce. The disability benefit is
calculated by multiplying the base pension benefit by a fraction, the
numerator being the member's years of ser\dce and the denominator
being 20. It is the same as the partial pension benefit (see page 14)
except that the numerator can not be less than 10, therefore, mem-
bers with one through ten 3ears of service will receive the same
benefit, currently $75.00.

The following table shows the benefits available to disabled mem-
bers calculated using the base benefit of $150.00 with 20 years of
service. (§§ 19-17-401 and 19-17-404, MCA)

Disability Benefit
(No minimum age limit.)


Monthly Years Monthly
Amount Service Amount



1 -9

$75.00. 13 $97.50




$75.00 14 SI 05.00




$82.50 15 i $112.50




$90.00' 16 $120.00




Disability Medical Reviews

It a member is receiving a disability benefit, the Board may require
the member to undergo periodic medical reviews. A medical review
will consist of a review of all medical records and a recent medical
exam. A physician or surgeon must conduct the medical exam. Any
medical review^ may include specific tests to evaluate the disabling
condition. The exam or tests will be done at a place agreed upon by
the Board and the member. The doctor must send the results of the
exam or test directly to the MPERA. Staff members of the MPERA
and the Board's medical expert will review the report and advise the
Board. Based on all medical evidence available, the Board will de-
cide whether to continue the member's disability status.
(§ 19-17-408, MCA)

Disability Benefit Cancellation

The Board may cancel a member's disability benefit for any of the
following reasons.

1. Based on medical data provided by the doctor and member, the
Board decides the member's medical condition is no longer per-
manent and total.

2. The member refuses to consent to the medical exam or tests.

3. The member earns more than $5,500 from employment during
the past year. If the member earns less than $5,500 in any fol-
lowing year, the Board must reinstate the benefit. The member
must send a letter to the Board requesting reinstatement.

Canceling a member's disability benefit will not affect any other
benefits available to the member. (§ 19-17-409, MCA)


Section IV: Additional Infor mation
1. Medical Expenses

To qualify for payment of medical expenses, a member must incur
an injury or illness while acting in the line of duty. The member
must also belong to a fire company not covered bv workers' com-
pensation insurance. Members must first apply for payment through
any other insurance coverage they or the company may have. Once
a member exhausts other insurance coverage, the MPERA will pay
up to $25,000 for any remaining medical expense claims approved
by the Board.

Treatment does not need to be in a hospital, but must require the
ser\dces of a doctor or nurse. Payment is limited to expenses billed
within 36 months of the injury. Total payment may be no more than
the necessary and reasonable out-of-pocket expenses or $25,000,
whichever is less.

The Board may permit payment for or replacement of a prosthesis.
The injury must have occurred while the member was acting in the
line of duty. A prosthesis must be necessary because of an injun^
that resulted in the loss of an arm, hand, leg, foot, eye, or any natu-
ral teeth. Payment may be no more than the cost of the prosthesis
or $1,500, whichever is less. Payments to replace a prosthesis are
limited to $1,500 ever}' five years.

To file a claim for medical expenses, a member should contact the
MPERA after inidal treatment of the injury. The MPERA will pro-
vide the form and instruct the member how to complete the form.
Claims must be submitted within one year of when the injur}' or
illness occurred. Bills received after filing the claim, but within 36
months of the injuiy or illness, may be added to the claim. A com-
petent medical professional and the member must verify the claim.
After the Board approves the claim, the MPERA will pay the busi-
ness that provided the medical services. (§§ 19-17-501, 502, 504 and 506,


2. Funeral Expenses

VClien an active member dies in the line of dim, the Board will pay
some or all of the cost of the funeral. Payment may not exceed the
reasonable cost or $1,500, whichever is smaller. Anyone wishing to
file a claim for funeral expenses should contact the MPERA for
instructions. A sur\avor, or any person acting for the member's
estate, may submit a claim for funeral expenses. Upon Board ap-
proval, the MPER/V will pay the business that provided the funeral
services. (§ 19-17-501 and 505, MCA)

Note: A member must be included on the current list of member-
ship filed with the county clerk at the dme of illness, injury or
death to receive any medical or funeral payments. The chief should
file a new list of members with the county clerk whenever the
membership changes. The MPERA may request a new^ cerdfied
list before paying benefits or claims.

3. Survivorship Benefits

Survivorship benefits may be available to a deceased member's
surviving spouse or dependent children. Monthly benefits paid to
a sur\nvor will equal the member's full or partial benefit or the dis-
ability benefit. Sur\dvorship benefits are limited to 40 months in-
cluding any pension or disabilit}' benefits paid to the member be-
fore death. If a member receives benefits for 40 months before
death, no survivorship benefit is available. At the request of the
survivor, a lump sum payment for the survivorship benefit may be
made instead of a monthly payment. (§ 19-17-405, MCA)


4. Taxes on Benefits

Some or all of a member's retirement benefit will be subject to
federal and state income taxes. Since tax law changes often, the


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