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Court overturns denial of benefits to former police officer with PTSD


An Arizona appellate court overturned a denial of accidental disability retirement benefits to a police officer for his post-traumatic stress disorder.

The officer worked for the city of Sierra Vista for more than a decade, during which time he experienced two traumatic incidents in the line of duty, according to the ruling issued Friday by the Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division Two, in Tucson.

By 2017, the officer began to experience daydreams in which he relived elements of a traumatic incident dating from his first period of employment. In 2018, while on duty, he experienced another traumatic incident. A doctor diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder, and he filed a workers compensation claim.

The officer was approved for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, and his doctor recommended a medical retirement in August 2018. The officer then submitted his resignation and applied for accidental disability retirement benefits.

An independent medical evaluator determined that the officer had PTSD. The City of Sierra Vista Public Safety Personnel Retirement System Local Board denied his application, and a trial court judge affirmed.

In reversing that decision, the appellate court noted that the board relied solely on the officer's resignation letter in finding that he did not “terminate by reason of disability.” Instead, the board found he had resigned “to pursue other interests.” The board cited evidence that the officer had a side business and was pursuing graduate studies.

The court concluded that the board abused its discretion when it determined the officer did not terminate employment by reason of a disability, since 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 publication of Business Insurance. More stories here.