Each of the last four years, with the help of our lobbyist, Peter Meringolo, the legislature has unanimously passed an amendment to Retirement and Social Security Law section 605-a which would make it possible for Uniformed Court Officers and Peace Officers who are injured as the result of a physical assault by an assailant, suffered while in service, to receive and accidental disability retirement pension. Unfortunately, the Governor has vetoed this bill each time. Once again, this year, our bill has been unanimously passed through the Assembly and Senate, awaiting action by the Governor.
On August 29, I sent a letter to Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks urging them once more to write memos of support to the Governor. It is imperative that this bill be signed into law. The urgency is highlighted by a recent Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, decision in Creegan v DiNapoli, dated May 30, 2019. In this instance, a Court Officer was beaten by a prisoner and became permanently disabled as a result of his injuries. The Court Officer was denied accidental disability retirement benefits on the basis that the incident did not constitute an accident under Retirement and Social Security Law section 605-a. Attached you will find a complete copy of the court's decision.
The decision is based on the way the law is currently written. Therein lies the problem. The current law defines an accident as something unexpected or out of the ordinary. If the injury occurs from the performance of job-related duties it is considered a risk "inherent" of those duties and not accidental. In other words, if a Court Officer gets hit in the head by a light fixture falling off the ceiling and becomes permanently disabled, he or she would be eligible for accidental disability retirement benefits. A Court Officer, like the Court Officer in Creegan v Dinapoli, who gets assaulted by an assailant during the course of his or her job duties, is not entitled to accidental disability retirement benefits. As ridiculous as it sounds, that is what the current law says. Our proposed legislation fixes that problem.
I am including a letter of support, which you can download by clicking here, for each of our members to sign and to send to the Governor imploring him to sign this bill into law. It can be mailed to: The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo Governor of New York State, NYS State Capitol Building, Albany NY 12224.
It is imperative that our Court Officers and Peace Officers are protected should they become permanently disabled during the course of their duties. I am also asking our Court Officers to proceed with caution, especially during volatile situations. Do not put yourselves at risk. You, and your family, are not financially protected should you become permanently disabled while doing your job. Being a hero won't pay your bills. Can you afford to live on 1/3 of your salary? Think carefully before you proceed. A job-related injury can have an enormous impact on your financial future.