Disability Pensions: Is There a Cure?
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Woonsocket officials are telling GoLocalProv that Lombardi’s medical disability record is private and can’t be released. State laws enable officials to refuse to release disability records, but it does not outright bar them from doing so. Working without the benefit of the record, one can only guess, but let’s hope it’s not an all too common condition known as UPCDD: Ultimate Public Compensation Double Dip (disorder).
The Lombardi tale is significant because this added layer of pension obligations has been growing under the radar for far too long. The Legislature’s uneven attempts to confront the state’s pension debt and significant unfunded liability problem have yet to encompass the growing debt of the disability pensions, which largely come from the ranks of police officers and firefighters. Both the state and Woonsocket need to provide some answers about the scope of
Lombardi’s duties and answer how, on the one hand, he is capable of carrying out field work as the fraud investigator (not just a desk job), yet be unable to fulfill any duties with the Woonsocket force and collect a disability pension all these years. Furthermore, the GoLocalProv story also reveals a stunning lack of progress during Lombardi’s tenure on the job, producing only about a dozen cases of alleged disability claims fraud over two decades, none resulting in a prosecution. Where is the accountability for the taxpayer on a dismal performance record like that?!
There has to be a way forward which will balance the employee’s right to privacy about their personal medical issues and the public’s right to legitimate disability pension costs. Taxpayers have a right to access transparent records which will reflect legitimacy in the disability claims procedure system. It’s time to open the books on existing statutes covering the scope of disability claims, length of time, monitoring processes and—clearly most significant of all—the legality of being granted a public employment job while collecting a separate public employment disability pension.
If communities and the state are serious about addressing the crushing costs of pensions in the coming year, an examination of the separate toll disability pensions are adding to the system must occur. In this season of miracles, perhaps Rhode Island can find a cure for its population from UPCDD disease. We survived the Great Flood. Last thing we need around here is a plague.
Donna Perry is a Communications Adviser to RISC www.statewidecoalition.com.
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