November 25, 2014

PBA Elicits Public Help To Restore Disability Pay


PATRICK J. LYNCH: Restoration a moral issue.  
DAVID PATERSON: Veto still resonating.  

More than 8,000 people have used the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association website to urge the City Council to improve disability benefits for police officers and firefighters hired starting in 2010, the union said.

A page supporting equalized benefits pops up when users go to the PBA website. It takes them to a link where they can send a letter to all 51 Council Members urging approval for a home-rule message that would allow the State Legislature to make the fix.

Hurt by Paterson Veto

Then-Gov. David Paterson in 2009 vetoed a bill, approved routinely since 1976, that had allowed generations of police officers and firefighters to be covered under a previous pension plan, Tier 2, that included tax-free disability pensions of 75 percent of final average salary.

With the Paterson veto, the disability pension for newer officers amounts to 50 percent of final average salary minus 50 cents for every dollar of Social Security disability benefits, and with no tax exemption. This means pensions of as little as $27 a day for rookie officers who are hurt on the job.

In the past six months, two newer officers, one with four years’ service and the other with less than a year, have been injured badly enough to make disability retirement a possibility.

The unions want to make all officers eligible for the Tier 2 disability benefit, arguing that cops and firefighters hurt in the service of the city deserve a pension that is better than poverty-level. But Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have balked, saying it would be too expensive. So the home-rule message is stuck in the Council.

‘Can’t Live on That’

“A New York City police officer hired since 2009 will not be able to live on the significantly reduced disability pay should he or she be permanently disabled in the line of duty,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said.

The letter on the PBA website says, “Our city cannot continue to praise each new class of NYPD recruits on one hand, while offering them sub-standard benefits on the other. It cannot promote broader economic equality while subjecting its own employees to such grossly unequal treatment. Legislation to restore equal disability-pension benefits for all police officers is a moral obligation, no matter the cost.” One click sends the letter to all Council Members. PBA spokesman Al O’Leary said that as of 7 a.m. Nov. 21, 8,673 people had attempted to send them. A problem with the City Council servers over the weekend of Nov. 15-16 delayed receipt of some of the letters. “We are working out a protocol to deliver all 443,323 individual letters gradually,” Mr. O’Leary said.