City Police, Firefighters’ Disability Claims Contested
San Jose ranks highest among the state's largest cities in the percentage of police officers and firefighters who retire on disability, the San Jose Mercury News reports. City officials refute claims that the process to attain disability status is more lenient than other cities.
Officers who are considered disabled receive a retirement pension that is more than 50% tax-free. According to the Mercury News, the city has been criticized for approving disability claims at a higher rate for those employees who are eligible to retire or already have retired.
Seventy-seven percent of San Jose police officers and firefighters who received disability status since January 2005 already had retired, while 32% of police officers and firefighters in Los Angeles received disability over a similar period.
The San Jose retirement board, which decides on disability cases, says that it should not be blamed for the high percentages.
Before approving a disability claim, the retirement board compares medical evaluations from the employee's doctor and from the board's own physician. After reviewing doctors' notes, the board considers whether there is another job in the department for the employee, a situation that occurred twice in the last 26 cases, according to the Mercury News.
Dr. Rajiv Das, the board's medical director, said applicants receive the same amount of scrutiny, regardless of age or rank. "I am skeptical and require strong medical evidence to convince me that there is a disability present," he said (Woolfolk, San Jose Mercury News, 10/20).