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Court Overturns Denial of Benefits to Ex-Police Officer with PTSD



An Arizona appeals court overturned a denial of involuntary disability pension to a police officer for his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jock Russell worked as a police officer for the city of Sierra Vista for more than a decade, during which time he experienced two traumatic incidents on the job, according to Russell v. City of Sierra Vista Public Safety Personnel Retirement System Local Boardaccording to the ruling issued Friday by the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division Two, in Tucson.

In 2017, Mr. Russell experienced daydreams in which he relived parts of a traumatic incident from his first tenure. In 2018, while on duty, Russell experienced another traumatic incident. A doctor diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder, and Mr. Russell filed a workers̵

7; compensation claim.

He was approved for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, and his doctor recommended a medical retirement in August 2018. Mr. Russell then submitted his resignation and applied for accident retirement benefits.

An independent medical evaluator determined that Mr. Russell had PTSD. The City of Sierra Vista Public Safety Personal Retirement System Local Board denied Mr. Russell’s application, and a trial judge affirmed.

Reversing that decision, the appeals court noted that the board relied solely on Russell’s resignation letter to find that he was not “terminating due to disability.” Instead, the board found that he had resigned “to pursue other interests.” The board cited evidence that Mr. Russell had a side business and was pursuing graduate studies.

The court concluded that the board abused its discretion in determining that Mr. Russell did not terminate employment on the basis of a disability because it ignored uncontroverted medical evidence showing that he had been unable to work at the time of his resignation due to PTSD.

WorkCompCentral is a sister magazine to Business Insurance. More stories here.


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