Originally Published in June 2011:
CAPTAINS ENDOWMENT ASSOCIATION BULLETIN
The official publication of the Captains Endowment Association, Police Department, City of New York "Managing the FINEST"
There exist issues which continue to arise with respect to line of duty injuries that occur years before an application for accident disability retirement is filed. For example, a Member who sustains a serious injury early in his or her career and who was likely to have qualified for three-quarters at the time, may have his or her application viewed differently years later. A member, who wishes to continue working, advance their respective career, and provide the fullest income for their families, may undergo legal challenges in establishing the causality requirement for accident disability in a review conducted many years after the injury.
For example, a Member of Service who sustains a severe lumbar injury in an RMP accident, who undergoes surgery and then attends a rigorous physical therapy regimen and ultimately seeks and is returned to full-duty, may have difficulty using that injury (to his or her lumbar spine) to qualify for three-quarters years later, especially if long periods of time elapse without documented steady and continuous medical care and prescription therapy. The Medical Board’s denial in these types of cases can be based upon their perception that the officer’s injury became progressively more painful and disabling, that the original injury was resolved through surgery; and or that the disability became disabling gradually through time, as a result of a degenerative or progressive process. Accordingly, the Medical Board may conclude the disability is no longer the result of the initial injury. The Administrative Code requires that a disabling injury be the consequence of an accident, not the occurrence of an accident and the development of the disability over the passage of time, while the member is on full duty and not undergoing medical treatment.
Ultimately, injured members who sustain severe injuries are faced with a dilemma, retire on a severe injury at the time they are injured and forgo career opportunity, or continue working but diminish the chances of an accident disability retirement later on.
There are some measures a member can take to increase the likelihood that an injury will be treated as disabling, even if the member is returned to full-duty following an accidental injury. Those measures may include documenting steady and continuous medical treatment and medication prescribed for their injury. In cases where a MOS is injured but is able to establish that the injury was continuously causing him or her to suffer, the Medical Board may accept the original accidental injury as the basis for awarding three-quarters. The prudent officer will steadily and continuously document their suffering by treating and medicating their injury. Steady and continuous treatment does not guarantee that you will receive three-quarters based upon an old injury, but it does improve your chances. Other factors, including the length of time one is on full-duty, instances of less than full duty, medical leave as well as your job assignment can also affect your chances.
Our is dedicated to providing advice and assistance with injury reports, pension applications and/or any other matters related to disability or injuries incurred in the line of duty. We encourage members to consult with us early and often. When you are contemplating the language for part “C” of the Line of Duty Injury Report, give us a call to ensure that the accidental nature of your injury is properly documented.
This information is not meant to cover every situation, it is, instead a general statement of disability law and procedures and is not to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice from an attorney.