As Pension Reform Is Hammered Out in San Jose, Heroic Police and Firefighters Rush to Declare Themselves Injured

Tax-free pensions without losing the ability to work and draw another salary - what's not to like?


Cop not shown because he's fallen and he can't get up.

If the open worship of union employees – both public and private – at the Democratic National Convention seemed jarringly out of step with the experiences regular shmoes actually have out in their own states and cities … wait, why did I start this sentence with "if"? Via Bloomberg Businessweek:

Police officers and firefighters in San Jose, California, are rushing to join a program that lets them claim disability and retire in their 30s and 40s—and that allows them to get tax-free pensions while taking new jobs elsewhere.

The benefit also allows retired police and fire employees in California's third-largest city to change their pensions to claim the tax break.

"It's certainly double-dipping," said Mayor Chuck Reed, 64. "Disability retirement should be for people who are seriously injured and can't work. Those people obviously can still work and apparently weren't seriously injured."

More than half of San Jose's retirement payments to police and fire retirees were related to disability claims, higher than most large cities in California, Alison Vekshin reported.

San Jose is one of the two cities in California where voters approved pension reform ballot initiatives in order to try to keep costs from bankrupting the cities (the other being San Diego). The measure passed with 71 percent of the vote, but unions are obviously trying to stop the changes. One change would stop this expensive little "disability" trick:

San Jose voters in June approved a ballot initiative, Measure B, that will limit public-safety disability retirements to those who can't do the job they did before or any other work in their department.

It also will replace the board of four current and retired police and fire workers and five other members, who now consider the applications, with an independent panel of medical experts.

"The problem lies not in the fact of whether people are injured or not, but where that line between an injury and a disabling injury is," San Jose Councilmember Pete Constant, a non-voting retirement board member and a former police officer on disability retirement, said in a telephone interview.

There are currently 143 disability retirement applications under review in San Jose. The board approved 94 percent of all applications for the past decade, Vekshin noted. Her lengthy analysis of the system bears a full read-through when you have time.

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  1. Oh man, California can’t go down the toilet fast enough.

    1. I have the sneaking suspicion that a turd as large as California is going to completely clog the toilet, unfortunately, and we’re all going to be wading around in sewage until we elect Joe the Plumber for president (or something like that).

      1. I like your metaphors, they’re big.

  2. It’s not just the city of San Jose, it’s everywhere in CA. One of the main problems is that any injury or illness is “presumptive” for public safety workers. That means that no matter what the medical condition is, it is presumed to have been caused by the job.
    An acquaintance of mine from high school got a medical retirement from a local police department for skin cancer (which he had removed and fully recovered from). Even though he spent his entire childhood at the beach, the skin cancer was presumed to have been caused by working outdoors. It didn’t seen to matter that he got the carcinoma on a part of his body (his back) that was covered by clothing while he was actually at work. He now spends his winters snowboarding everyday at Mt. Hood, OR. He is 33 years old.

    1. I clearly picked the wrong line of work (though I wouldn’t pick cancer as the means to the end of hitting the slopes every day. Maybe a broken limb or something along those lines).

    2. Even if it had been caused by the job, if he’s able to snowboard everyday, how is he too disabled to work?

      1. See, you’re applying logic. First mistake.

      2. That’s the point of the article. CA pays “disability” to public safety employees who aren’t disabled.

  3. To protect and serve … their pension payments.

  4. Police officers and firefighters in San Jose, California, are rushing to join a program that lets them claim disability and retire in their 30s and 40s

    This isnt new.

    In fact its standard operating procedure for most unions.

    remember last year’s LIRR (long island railroad) pension ‘scandal’?…..f=nyregion

    I believe the only reason they got busted is that they were sucking on both the state AND federal teat a bit too hard

    The federal investigation followed a series of articles by The New York Times in 2008 that revealed that nearly every one of the railroad’s retirees had applied for and received a federal disability pension. …

    The railroad’s retirees can collect pensions from both the railroad and the Railroad Retirement Board, a federal agency that administers benefits for all railroad workers

    Somewhere along the line they mentioned that like 90% of employees complained of “severe back pain” about a year before retirement… and that this was consistent with reports from other similarly-administered programs.

    As I said at the time, it was my conviction that every 5 years or so, one story like this is trotted out, a few dozen people are slapped on the wrist, and then the unions go back to business as usual. Wash, Rise, Repeat.

  5. Disability retirement should be for people who are seriously injured and can’t work. Those people obviously can still work and apparently weren’t seriously injured.

    PTSD! The WAR ON KOPZ takes its toll.

  6. More of Scalia’s New Professionalism at work.

    1. And nothing else happened.

  7. Nuh-uh!

    My contract says that I can fake an injury and get paid!

    Just like it says that I get paid for sick days even if I don’t get sick!

    Youse guys got a problem with contracts?

    1. needs more hth and less capitals in the RIGHT places, bigot

  8. so if DERPhy the real derp hurts his back while powerlifting Morgan Fairchild during his metal band’s concert, it will be considered on the job?

  9. Some of my police pals constantly bitch about the people they arrest drawing disability checks. When I bring up “they just learned that from their police buddies” they talk about how those people are the exception. When I get one of them alone, they bitch about the internal abuse of disability, but refuse to acknowledge it as anything other than an exception when they are near fellow officers.

  10. And the standard answer the new applicants will give is “I’m NOT an abuser! I’ve been trying to work through the pain but I’m afraid if I don’t make the claim now it will be rejected if the pain gets worse.”

  11. I palled around with a guy when I was younger that came from a long line of cops. He naturally became one, too. When last I saw him, about 10 years ago, I asked how the police work was going. “Oh, I retired on disability a few years ago,” came the reply. He was about 40 or so when I saw him, putting his “retirement” at around his mid-late 30s.

    The interesting thing is how he told me this…it was like a guy who had been reaching for that brass ring for year had finally grasped it.

    He immediately got another job and is drawing that paycheck along with his “disability.”

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