A retired police officer has successfully won an appeal for disability pension after years of legal struggle. The Chief reports that last month, a state appeals court ruled in her favor. The offer serviced over 300 hours at Ground Zero and developed fibromyalgia, among other conditions. She is represented by Jeffrey Goldberg, an attorney with the national law firm of Parker Waichman LLP.
The officer was a first responder on September 11th.Court records show that she was assigned to a security post a block away from Ground Zero in October 2001. After developing shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and severe chest pains, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in March 2002. According to court documents, she filed for disability retirement in 2008 but was denied. The medical board of the Police Pension Fund acknowledged that her fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome left her unable to work, but asserted that these conditions were not caused by 9/11. She was denied again when reapplying several months later. The officer challenged these decisions by filing an Article 78 petition in State Supreme Court, but did not win.
According to Mr. Goldberg, the retired officer was able to finally win her bid for disability based on the World Trade Center amendment to city pension law. This amendment gives first responders the benefit of the doubt, and says that illnesses developed after 9/11 should be presumed related to the attacks. Furthermore, if pension boards argue that an applicant’s illness is not related to the attacks, they need to show valid medical evidence if they assert that an applicant’s condition is not related to the attacks. If this is not done, then the applicant must receive disability pension equal to three-quarters of his or her final salary, tax-free. The appellate judges found that fibromyalgia was a “new onset disease” and that the board failed provide credible evidence as required by the amendment.