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Retired NYPD Officer Wins Appeal for Disability Pension for 9/11 Illnesses

Mar 18, 2015

Last month a state appeals court ruled in favor of an NYPD officer who sought a line-of-duty disability pension for fibromyalgia and other conditions she developed as a result of toxic exposure at Ground Zero.

Jeffrey Goldberg, an attorney for officer Annmarie Sheldon said the case was based on a World Trade Center amendment to the city’s pension law, giving first responders the benefit of the doubt about illnesses presumed to arise from exposure to toxic debris, according to The Chief, a newsletter for New York City civil employees. If the pension board feels the illness is not related to Ground Zero exposure, it must present credible medical evidence of another cause.

Fibromyalgia symptoms include bone and muscle pain accompanied by fatigue, and sleep, memory, and mood problems. Symptoms often begin after physical or psychological trauma, The Chief explains. Officer Sheldon was a first responder on 9/11 and served more than 300 hours at a security post just a block from Ground Zero in the period following the terrorist attack. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and other conditions in March 2002.

Under the amendment, a successful applicant receives a tax-free disability pension equal to three-quarters of his or her final average salary. Sheldon filed for a disability pension in 2008 but was denied. The medical board of the Police Pension Fund ruled that Sheldon’s illness was not caused to WTC toxic exposure and she took ordinary retirement in November 2009, The Chief reports.

The appeals judges noted that the World Trade Center presumption means that that "unlike ordinary [disability-pension] claimants, first responders need not submit any evidence—credible or otherwise—of causation to obtain enhanced benefits," according to The Chief.

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