Montgomery County Council members are pushing for an overhaul of disability payments to much of the county's work force, particularly police officers, saying recent negotiations with public employees unions did nothing to rein in overly generous pensions. Union members secured additional time off -- pending council approval -- for non-school employees during bargaining with executive department officials, but the county's disability payment system wasn't altered. Under the current standard, disabled police officers and general government employees receive two-thirds of their salary in a tax-free pension regardless of the extent of their injuries.
Council members deadlocked last year on a measure that would have created a two-tiered system, basing disability pensions on injury severity, because some thought it was a bargaining matter. But now Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg, D-at large, is seeking sponsors for a bill that would create such a setup by July 2011 if no other agreements are reached.
"In order to get meaningful reform, you're really going to have to implement a two-tiered system," she said. "We can't apply the same benefits for everyone. There's a difference between a broken finger and paralyzed spine."
From 1985 to 2008, 40 percent of retiring officers left work with disability pay, according to the police union -- far eclipsing surrounding counties.
Inspector General Thomas Dagley in a 2008 report concluded "a prudent person would consider [the system] abusive." He found more than 60 percent of officers retired with a disability pension in a recent three-year period. SOURCE: Examiner