June 1, 2011

Looking at the Working Disabled

Marc Comtois

Being categorized as "disabled" regarding one job doesn't mean you can't legitimately work another (like a less physically demanding desk job). But should you be able to collect an entire disability pension AND work? Some don't think so:

Two freshman Republican lawmakers are seeking to cap the disability pensions paid retired municipal workers who have moved on to new jobs in the private sector.

Should the recipient of any disability pension "supported wholly or in part by a municipal or quasi-municipal entity be engaged in a gainful occupation,'' the bill says, "the retirement system shall adjust and at least annually readjust...the amount of his or her disability pension.''

"If the retiree is able to work and earn a salary, then the disability benefit should be decreased,'' said Rep. Michael W. Chippendale, R-Foster, of the bill that he co-sponsored and introduced on May 26, along with Rep. Patricia L. Morgan of West Warwick, a former state GOP chairwoman.

As Morgan and Chippendale explained their bill, it would allow retirees receiving disability pensions to "receive earnings that when combined with their pension equal 100 percent of their base, pre-retirement salary. For each dollar earned that exceeds this amount there would be a corresponding reduction in the pension benefit received.''

"Disability pensions are intended to provide for workers who can no longer work because they have been severely injured or have become permanently disabled. Taxpayers are more than willing to provide that benefit. Unfortunately, this system of support has been unfairly exploited,'' Chippendale said.

I'm guessing this proposed limiting of disability pension remuneration is restricted to those who matriculate into the private sector because applying it to those who move from one public sector job to another are covered by collective bargaining, which probably prevents such modifications without opening up contracts. This makes me wonder how many actually go from public to private instead of stay in the public sector, collect disability, pile up the time-in-service, etc. If the number is low, how many will stay in the public sector should this be passed. Damned if you do....

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How about reducing the public safety disability pensions back to 50 percent. Right now they get two-thirds of their salary. Wouldn't it be less complicated at a set percentage?

Posted by: Max Diesel at June 1, 2011 1:17 PM

Some go into the private sector, but I'll bet not many. The real research project (though not likely possibe) is to see how many go out of a locally managed and funded pension plan on a disability (or regular retirement) into either the state employee system or another municipality that is in the state municipal pension. This is what leads to classic double-dipping.

Hate to say it, but the only real solution to that problem is to merge akll oif the retirement systems into one state run system and then disallow cross-over.

Posted by: John at June 1, 2011 2:11 PM

The tough part will be enforcement. It's fairly easy if they work in RI to use tax returns and other info that employers need to submit. But what if someone collecting here takes a job in MA? That might be a little harder.

What if they move out of state? Do they still get to collect their disability from RI?

Posted by: Patrick at June 1, 2011 2:38 PM

I don't see why government can't hire private investigators to root out some of the disability pension fraud and double dipping abuse. Every insurance company I'm familiar with does this and quite successfully. They wouldn't hire all these PIs if it wasn't saving them a lot of money, and we're talking about grand larceny in these bogus "bad back" disability pensions every Tom, Dick, and Harry has been receiving from the PFD and PPD. A 10-year-old with a cellphone camera could have caught fireman Sauro red-handed.

Posted by: Dan at June 1, 2011 3:04 PM

Why would the lawmakers bother going through all it takes to get a law passed and limit it to municipal workers? Plenty of privately employed people are collecting disability and running businesses. "And justice for ALL."

Posted by: michael at June 1, 2011 4:47 PM

As much as we like to beat up on the teachers union and Council 94 this scam is all about our "hero" cops and firemen.
No Morse we are NOT talking about you but your scumbag union.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at June 1, 2011 6:57 PM

"I don't see why government can't hire private investigators to root out some of the disability pension fraud "

That brings up a related question: why did Providence's Safety Commissioner Pare announce that only 100 disability pensions would be reviewed? Why not review all of them?

Posted by: Monique at June 2, 2011 8:23 AM

Hmmmm, so if you get an ijured knee or ankle, you are not able to work as a firefighter or police officer, therefore you deserve 100% pay. Are the taxpayers NUTS or WHAT??? Give them a year or two at full pay to relearn anaother trade, then OFF with "disability pay". This "Disability Pay" for these people is worst then a joke, it is a CRIME, and a slap in the face to those who are TRULY disabled and unable to do almost ANY job. Get rid of those clowns who milk the system.

Posted by: Dorothy at June 3, 2011 10:14 AM

Just get rid of disability pensions

Most of them are fraudulent anyway

There are a ridiculous number of ex-police living in Florida on RI disability pensions and living the good life

Most suffered awful injuries like a slightly sore back--it's all fraud

Posted by: Doug Misner at June 3, 2011 10:46 AM
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