Chief-Leader
February 25, 2013

 

Rule Retired Disabled Cops Must Pay Part Of Their Health Tab

By MARK TOOR

NYPD officers who retire after being injured in the line of duty cannot rely on the city to pay all the medical bills resulting from those injuries, a state appeals court ruled Feb. 19.

The Appellate Division upheld a 2011 ruling by State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe that the language of the state law applies only to active-duty officers, not retirees.

PBA Weighing Appeal

“We are reviewing the decision with an eye towards appeal,” said Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, one of the police unions that brought suit seeking to have bills related to line-of-duty injuries covered in retirement. The appeal would go to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

Currently, said PBA spokesman Al O’Leary, “anyone with a line-of-duty injury who retires winds up picking up the cost of co-pays and doctor visits. If they were still active, all of that would have been taken care of by the city. In the state, it’s universally paid, including in retirement.”

Retired NYPD officers must also satisfy deductibles, pay their own prescription costs and submit their own insurance claims. The bills can add up to thousands of dollars a year.

“I am disappointed and puzzled by the court’s decision in denying continuation of line-of-duty medical benefits for officers who retire after being seriously injured serving this city,” said Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association.

City: Burdening Taxpayers

The city argued that the lawsuit was an attempt to burden taxpayers with more benefits. “The sole purpose of this litigation in our view is to shift the cost of these employee responsibilities to the city in the guise of maintaining that the city is responsible for all health costs incurred by retirees for line-of-duty injuries,” city attorney Paul Rephen told the appeals court.

A panel of four Appellate Division Justices issued a 15-line decision upholding Justice Jaffe’s ruling. It said they agreed with her interpretation of the language of the law.

Her 2011 opinion said that the statute “specifically and explicitly refers only to NYPD members and employees, and absent any dispute that a retired NYPD member or employee is not an NYPD member or employee, the statute plainly does not cover retired NYPD employees and members.”

‘Not Legislature’s Intent’

Justice Jaffe added, “Other Administrative Code sections which govern benefits for city employees refer explicitly to retired NYPD members or retired city employees...It is thus reasonably inferred that had the Legislature intended that section...to apply to retired NYPD members or employees, it would have done so.”

She agreed that “it appears somewhat harsh that the benefits accorded one injured in the line of duty significantly change upon retirement.”

The PBA unsuccessfully argued that similar statutes pay for line-of-duty medical care even after the officer has retired.