Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund Changes Disability Rule

Columbus, OH (January 2016) - Charles Zamora, a workers' compensation attorney with a statewide practice representing police officers and firefighters before the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund (OP&F), explains an emergency rule change that went into effect January 20, 2016.

Police officers and firefighters who are members of OP&F and who sustain injuries or developmental disabilities which prevent them from performing their jobs may be eligible to receive a disability retirement. The rules controlling the disability retirement process are set forth in the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC).

OP&F made changes to these rules, giving itself broad discretion to reject the opinions of its own medical advisors and vocational experts in disability retirement appeals.

According to the new law, OAC 742-3-05(E)(1), the OP&F board is not under "*** any obligation to adopt the recommendation of its medical advisor or vocational expert if there is some evidence to support a contrary finding." This is a power that was not previously set forth in the Ohio Administrative Code.

In addition, OAC 742-3-05(E)(6)(c) specifically states that, following the hearing on the member's appeal of the disability retirement application, OP&F may "*** [d]eny the disability application;". When read together, these changes appear to make it easier for OP&F to deny an application for disability retirement.

An additional change to the Ohio Administrative Code requires that any police officer or firefighter who files an appeal from OP&F's initial decision concerning the application for disability retirement must now present "new evidence not previously considered by the board ***." A failure of the member to submit new evidence will result in the appeal being dismissed.

These changes in Ohio law may adversely impact the ability of police officers and firefighters injured in the line of duty to receive the significant benefit of disability retirement.
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