August 23, 2021

The New York City Teachers Retirement System's rejection of a member's application for accidental disability retirement trumps the Social Security Administration's finding that member was disabled

The genesis of this Article 78 action was New York City Teachers Retirement System [NYCTRS] disapproval of a member's [Plaintiff] application for accidental disability retirement notwithstanding the fact that the Social Security Administration had earlier found that the Plaintiff was disabled.

Supreme Court dismissed Plaintiff's petition, which ruling was unanimously affirmed by the Appellate Division.

Citing Matter of Merlino v Teachers' Retirement Sys. of the City of N.Y., 177 AD3d 430, the Appellate Division opined that NYCTRS' determination to deny Petitioner's application for accident disability retirement was not arbitrary and capricious, and was supported by some credible evidence. The court, noting that NYCTRS' Medical Board determination the Petitioner was not disabled was supported by its physical examination and interview of the Petitioner.

The Board, said the court, found upon examination, Petitioner was able to move around unassisted, had normal strength and range of motion in his shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hips, and had little or no tenderness in his neck and back. Further, the Medical Board noted that Petitioner had not had standard of care epidural injections, trigger point injections, or any other procedures to improve his current complaints.

Although Petitioner claimed that the Medical Board had ignored his medical history, the Appellate Division said that any conflicting evidence was for the Medical Board to resolve.

Addressing Petitioner's reliance on the disability finding of the Social Security Administration that Petitioner was disabled, the court said the Social Security Administration's finding was not dispositive of the Medical Board's disability determination nor did the finding of a medical arbitrator, who examined Petitioner after the Medical Board made its determination, "warrant Article 78 relief." 

CLICK HEREto access the full text of the Appellate Division in this action.

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