Performance of Duty Disability Retirement Benefits Application Denied; Petitioner Suffered from Various Risk Factors Before Heart Attack.

In the Matter of Juan C. Rivera v. Thomas P. DiNapoli, as Comptroller of the State of New York, et al.

In this Article 78, Petitioner sought for to review a determination of Respondent which denied Petitioner’s Application for disability retirement benefits.

In 2004, Petitioner Juan C. Rivera, a correction officer, suffered a heart attack after becoming sick while at work. Petitioner could not return to work due to his medical condition, therefore he applied for disability retirement benefits. His application was denied by the New York State and Local Retirement System because his disability was not “…a result of the performance or discharge of his ….duties.”

A Hearing Officer also agreed and concluded that Rivera was not entitled to the performance of duty disability retirement benefits. The Comptroller adopted the Hearing Officer’s findings and denied Petitioner’s application. Petitioner filed this Article 78 proceeding to annul the determination.

According to Social Security Law § 507-b (c), where a person has “successfully passed a physical examination on entry into services as a correction officer” that did not disclose proof of heart disease and afterward become disabled as a result of a heart condition sustained throughout employment, it is assumed that the disability was “incurred in the performance and discharge of duty, unless the contrary be proved by competent evidence.”

The Retirement system needed to rebut the presumption that petitioner’s disability happened while in the performance and discharge of his duties as a correction officer. Therefore, the Retirement System brought in a cardiologist to examine petitioner and concluded that although work-related stress can heighten the symptoms of coronary artery disease, petitioner disease was not related to his employment. The cardiologist referenced the various risk factors that are commonly associated with coronary heart disease that the petitioner suffered from. This included hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus, obesity and hypertension.

The Appellate Division concluded that the petitioner’s application for disability retirement benefits was properly denied and the petition is dismissed without costs.

Read more about this Article 78 case here.

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