Disabled NYC paramedic faces termination

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Injured on duty 9-11, says pain prevents him from returning to work

An officer in the New York City Fire Department's Emergency Medical Services division who was injured while on duty Sept. 11 says that the city is denying him benefits by refusing to recognize disabilities that prevent him from returning to work.

Lt. Marc Weinstein, a paramedic supervisor, said he was badly injured when the No. 7 tower in the World Trade Center complex collapsed some hours after the twin towers came tumbling down.

Since then, he told WorldNetDaily, he has had a pair of operations to fuse vertebrae in his neck and lower back and has permanently lost some hearing in his left ear. He says most days he is in excruciating pain and that his injuries have left him unable to perform his duties – a diagnosis supported by four private physicians.

Weinstein, a 14-year veteran, said that his benefits are managed by the New York City Employees' Retirement System, or NYCERS. He said under the provisions of his contract, "the city can terminate me after 12 months if I can't return to duty" – something he says may happen, ironically, by today's anniversary.

However, he said, he may have been eligible for three-quarters of his regular pay under permanent disability provisions were it not for the judgment of a three-physician panel of FDNY doctors.

"They said I was fit to return to duty – even light duty," said the EMS officer.

Because the FDNY doctors say he is able to return to at least "light duty," he's not eligible to receive disability benefits. Worse, he said he also cannot use sick time or personal paid leave benefits to make up the difference in the short term.

"They said since I wasn't blind or totally deaf and didn't lose a limb or in a wheelchair, I could do something," he said. "But I can't even sit for a few hours without the pain in my back hurting so bad I have to lie down."

A spokesman at NYCERS confirmed Weinstein's claims, noting that despite being a division of FDNY, New York City EMS technicians are covered under a different benefits package.

The one bright spot Weinstein has had is the $40,000-plus he was awarded in cash and food vouchers by the American Red Cross to compensate for his time off due to his injuries.

Since then, however, he says ARC officials have told him he's not eligible for more aid because to qualify, he would have to have been admitted to a hospital within 24 hours of his injuries – an impossibility for NYC emergency workers called to duty Sept. 11. They were overwhelmed and understaffed for several days afterward as well.

"They keep sending me forms to claim different gift benefits, and I fill them out and send them back," he said. "But they reject them because of that 24-hour rule."

Weinstein – who says he arrived on the scene of the attacks just as the second tower had collapsed – says if he can't go back to work soon, he'll lose everything.

"The reality is, even if I go back to light duty," he said, "[the city] doesn't have to give me my three-quarters pension. They wanted me to do that, and told me if I did, I'd get another six months of benefits and be able to use my sick time and leave. Everything would be OK then."

But, he explained, "I just can't work at this point. I can't do anything. It's horrible."

The Red Cross' "Liberty Disaster Relief Fund" received some $1 billion in donations so far and will have disbursed nearly $643 million of that by today.

"Another $200 million is projected to be distributed by year's end, depending on the pace of responses from families to Red Cross programs, and the processing and verification of necessary documentation," said a Red Cross statement.

The charity goes on to say the more than 3,000 families of the deceased and seriously injured will receive an average of $115,000, assuming they accept all available assistance from ARC.

"Most of the balance, approximately $133 million, will be spent over the next three to five years to help families with long-term needs including health care, mental health and family support services," said the statement.

Jon Dougherty WorldNetDaily

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