ORLANDO, Fla – A former Orlando firefighter has just lost a court battle for a disability pension while on duty, even though medics admit he suffered several work-related injuries that led to him to be declared invalid.
“In my eyes, I didn’t do anything wrong. I tried to stay there and fight these injuries, and the city has turned its back on me, ”said Joseph Brown.
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Brown said he did what a lot of people end up doing: trying to get over the pain. It appears that this decision cost him the chance to receive an invalidity pension in the course of his duties.
The difference between the payment of an invalidity pension and the payment of an invalidity pension in the performance of one’s duties is several tens of thousands per year. Brown is only 38 years old.
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“You never want to go out that way,” Brown said. “You want to be able to finish your career. “
Brown’s back made the decision for him. Following several injuries at work, he was found disabled because he cannot lift more than 50 pounds.
The final decision of the pension board lists his injuries reported during his time at the ministry. The last, dated November 2017, shows that he was struck by a pipe that had come loose from its clip. It hit Brown’s shin and knocked him back.
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“All I remember is my lieutenant was starting to pull away. I get kicked in the legs, I turn around and the last thing I remember is, ‘This is going to hurt’, ”Brown recalls.
Despite the pain and difficulty breathing, Brown did not claim workers’ compensation or perform light work as a result of the incident. About a year later, he suffered from a neck spasm while trying to intubate a patient.
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That’s the problem: The Pension Board’s final decision says “they were ultimately unable to trace the disability back to a work-related injury due to Brown’s return to full duty” following the ‘incident of November 2017. “In addition, failure to seek treatment himself could be the cause of the disabling condition,” says the order.
“When you’re a firefighter, that’s what you do. I gave up so much to get to the city (of Orlando), ”Brown said. “It’s one of the top departments in the country to work for.”
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The decision refers to an independent medical assessment, in which a physician concluded that “the condition of the plaintiff’s cervical spine pre-existed his injury at work, although the performance of his duties as a member of the services of fire probably exacerbated the underlying condition ”. However, the full medical report also states “with regard to his low back pain”, the doctor is of the opinion that the problems are “a direct result of the performance of his duties”.
In addition to losing their dream career, Brown’s family had to sell their house to make ends meet, and lifting their children is now too painful.
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“You go into a high risk job and you expect that there is a possibility that I will not come home, that there is a possibility that I will get hurt, but they are supposed to protect you from that and help you, and they just haven’t done it, ”Brown said.
A spokesperson for the city of Orlando told 9 Investigates that under state law, the pension board is an independent body of the city. They are responsible for the administration of the city fire pension fund.
We reached out to the lawyer representing the Pension Board, who is now claiming attorney fees following Brown’s failed legal fight.