Comparison: Firefighter Disability Pension Rates
Following up: So what are some of the firefighter disability rates across the country? Well, the Boston FD rate of 74% between 2005-07 is known around here. Similarly, New York City had a disability rate of 72% between 2004-2009 (62% rate in 2000, pre-9/11~and the NYPD was at 19%) while Chicago FD was at 25%. In San Jose, CA in 2009 it was reported that:
52 percent of former San Jose officers and 77 of firefighters were receiving disability pensions — rates that dwarfed those in nearby towns and other big California cities.
Those are the bad ones. I also found a report out of Springfield, Missouri that compared the combined Fire/Police disability rates of several communities. It’s a little apples/oranges (except for Amarillo,TX), but interesting (and all I could find in limited time).
I suspect that most rates match the above list rather than the extreme examples given at the top (they were easily found because they were so high and caused a ruckus, after all). That being said, there is no doubt that injuries can build up over time and manifest later in career, thus making one eligible for disability pay (as Michael commented). As I replied to Michael, part of this is because a unionized pension system has a vehicle for disability retirement while the private sector 401K doesn’t. Nonetheless, the 59% level in Providence still seems too high.
ADDENDUM: Also in the WPRI report was this:
As Tim [White] wrote back in 2008, “The stats for the Providence Fire Department are also affected by the early 1990s, when nearly eight out of 10 retiring firefighters were granted an accidental disability pension.” That was down to one in five by 2008.
In the comments, Michael supports this:
In 1991 when I started the disability pension system in my opinion was abused. 95% of firefighters retired with disabilities. Cianci was mayor, a lot of shenanigans were going on. Those people are still collecting pensions. Over the last ten or so years the system is much better, with disabilities being awarded only after three doctors that the city chooses agree that the firefighter can no longer do the job. I don’t know what the percentage is, but my guess is around 15%. The 59% comes from years past. The 15% or so that get disability pensions earned them.
In addition to Michael, David S. also offers some firefighter perspective.