New York Daily News

July 29, 2010


Mayor Bloomberg to fight no-proof disability pensions for cops, firefighters and other city workers

Kamrass/Times Union
Firefighters, as well as police officers and other city employees, are at risk of losing their no-proof disability pensions.

BY Adam Lisberg

Mayor Bloomberg declared war on a cherished benefit for cops and firefighters: line-of-duty injury awards for some illnesses without proof they happened on the job.

"We cannot afford to automatically assume that anybody who is sick was made sick by their government service," he said at a budget meeting Wednesday.

"And if it wasn't made sick by their government service, it's not the government's responsibility."

Cops, firefighters and many other city workers get the so-called "presumption" for heart conditions, and firefighters also get it for lung conditions and some cancers.

Disabled workers retire with tax-free pensions worth three-quarters of their salary - instead of half their salary, taxable.

Union leaders are outraged the mayor wants all injured retirees to prove they were hurt on the job, after a career spent risking their lives for the city.

"Some injuries are visible to the naked eye, but some injuries are only visible inside a CT scan," said Al Hagan, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

"We have a lung bill, and you can well imagine that firemen end up with bad lungs," said Hagan, a 35-year veteran. "I never had a cigarette in my life, and I cough like a TB victim."

Unions have relied on sympathetic lawmakers in Albany to pass the presumption bills, usually over the city's objections.

Benefits for existing workers can't be reduced under the law, but Bloomberg is seeking a wave of pension changes for new city employees.

"The dangers and stress faced by police officers are unrelenting and will not diminish for future police officers," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. "These laws exist to care for those who face these dangers without question."

With Rocco Parascandola