Lawless v DiNapoli, 56 AD3d 1114
A member of the New York State Employees’ Retirement System [NYSERS] applied for performance of duty disability retirement benefits alleging that he was permanently incapacitated as the result of a heart attack he suffered approximately six months earlier. The member filed his application relying upon the statutory presumption contained in Retirement and Social Security Law §507-b(c).
§507-b(c) provides that “…any condition of impairment of health caused by diseases of the heart, resulting in disability or death to a member covered by this section, presently employed and who shall have sustained such disability while so employed, who successfully passed a physical examination on entry into service as a correction officer or security hospital treatment assistant, which examination failed to disclose evidence of any disease or other impairment of the heart, shall be presumptive evidence that it was incurred in the performance and discharge of duty, unless the contrary be proved by competent evidence.”
NYSERS conceded that the individual was permanently incapacitated from the performance of his duties, but decided that his disability was not sustained as a result of the discharge of his duties as a correction officer and rejected his application for line-of-duty disability benefits. The Hearing Officer upheld the denial, concluding that the proof submitted by the Retirement System was sufficient to rebut the statutory "incurred in the line of duty presumption" set out in Retirement and Social Security Law §507-b(c).
The Appellate Division, noting that the Retirement System did not dispute that the member had successfully passed his pre-employment physical or that he is now permanently disabled from performing his duties as a correction officer due to his heart attack and underlying coronary artery disease, said that because the applicant elected to rely upon the statutory presumption contained in §507-b(c), the issue to resolve was whether the Retirement System had rebutted this presumption with competent medical evidence.
The court said that its conclusion, after its review of the record as a whole, was that the Retirement System successfully rebutted the statutory presumption and thus properly rejected the member’s application for benefits.
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