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New York Firefighters to Sue over 9/11-related Disability Decision*

by Brendan Coyne

*A correction was appended to this news brief after initial publication.

Oct. 26, 2005 – Claiming that a 2003 pension board decision changing the rules for firefighters seeking 9/11-related disability payments may be "political," a group of 30 current and retired New York City firefighters is preparing a class-action lawsuit against the city fire department to force officials to either return workers to full status or allow them to retire with the original pension.

The lawsuit, to be filed on behalf of Uniformed Firefighters Association Local 94 members, is aimed at pulling those suffering from lung problems due to recovery and rescue work conducted after the September 11 terror attacks out of "career limbo," UFA Vice President James Slevin told the New York Daily News.

"They have been found to be disabled by fire department doctors and would like to go on with their lives if they cannot go back to firefighting duty," Slevin told the paper.

Since 2002, at least 378 New York firefighters have retired due to respiratory problems, nearly a third of the overall number of FDNY workers who reported that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were directly related to their decision to leave the job.

While most of those cases did not result in permanent disability, a large number of FDNY workers were placed on light duty after failing a breathing test. In 2003, the pension fund’s medical board changed the rules to force a pulmonary test on firefighters seeking disability pensions. The union said the new exam fails to check for the most common ailment its members suffer from.

The city’s law department stands by the medical board’s decision, the paper reported.

CORRECTION

Minor Change:

In the second paragraph of this brief, the editors have added the words "to be" in the sentence that now readers "The lawsuit, to be filed on behalf of Uniformed Firefighters Association Local 94 members..."  The initial omission was likely made during the editing process.

 | Change Posted October 27, 2005 at 02:40 AM EST

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