Originally Published in October 2011
La Sotto Voce: The Official Newsletter of the Columbia Association
Fire Department, City of New York
Volume 43, No.4
A firefighter who sustains a serious injury early on but wishes to continue working, advance their respective career and provide the fullest income for their families, may undergo legal challenges in establishing accident disability in a review conducted many years after that injury, 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 member’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 fire officer 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. Of course, 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, later injuries as well as your job assignment can also affect your chances.