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Palo Alto highest in county for disability claims by police, firefighter retirees

Original post made on Jun 28, 2013

More than half of Palo Alto's police officers and firefighters retired with disability benefits over the past five years, a rate that is almost double the average in Santa Clara County, according to a report released Thursday by the county's Civil Grand Jury.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 28, 2013, 9:40 AM

Comments (76)

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 28, 2013 at 9:58 am

Questions that need answering:

How these public safety types get disabled?

Palo Alto doesn't have many structure files, so where/how are these injuries being sustained?

Need to know how many of there disability retirements are EMTs and how many firefighters? EMTs might be getting back injuries. However--this would require a comparison between PA EMTs and private sector EMTs.


Need to know the age of each retiree who retires on medical disability. Generally, older people tend to sustain more injuries than younger people.

Need to know if those getting disability retirement were OK six months before retirement?

Need to know the name of the doctors servicing these unions?

--

Nationally, about 100 firefighters die on the job every year. A review of those cases show that about 1/3rd die actually fighting fires, about 1/3 die in traffic accidents in-transit to/from a fire site, and the rest die of ailments attributed to a sedentary life-style, like heart attacts and high blood pressure.

Because Palo Alto runs its own ambulance service, this Grand Jury report is somewhat incomplete, since it fails to provide any details about the actual disabilities.

All-in-all, there does seem to be a problem here in Palo Alto. Sadly, it's not likely one that the Council, which allegedly represents the public, will demonstrate much interest.


Posted by Ernesto USMC, a resident of Ventura
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:25 am

This is insulting, particularly to anyone who has served in the military and faced real danger. A firefighter's job is statistically much safer than farming, construction, etc. and only a little more hazardous than being a desk bureaucrat.

For every firefighter that goes on disability, the remaining firefighters should have their pensions and/or pay reduced to compensate the costs. Then the fire union would have incentive to actually regulate who applies for disability instead of treating the system like a feeding frenzy.


Posted by member, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:26 am

more civil servants milking the system...epa and san jose should have higher percentages...really?


Posted by Martin L, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:39 am

It's called fraud.

But being the heroes of our society, they are untouchable.


Posted by cid young, a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:40 am

Perhaps the City of Palo Alto should consider taking the same measures that the City of Morgan Hill and the Coastside Fire Protection District did, and contract out for services. Not only is the provider very cost efficient and fair, they don't mess around with abuse from the small bunch that may figure out a way to retire with maximum entitlements. Before CFPD contracted with a State Agency, I have been told that some Firefighters would go out on disability, and flip houses or something else in their "spare" time. When that house was finished, bingo, they'd be back at work and another would go out on a disability. They also would get big pay spikes right before they were ready to retire, so the calculation would be higher when using pay to determine post-retirement income.
As employees of the District, the retirement or disability costs were a large percentage of the budget, as it must be for Palo Alto employees. The beauty of contracting with the State Agency, is they remain employees of the state, thereby lifting the unfunded liability for pensions and healthcare from the backs of the property owners with-in the District, because the State pays for it.

To sum it up I have three words: USE CAL FIRE


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:46 am

One of my biggest concerns about public employee, and particularly safety workers, are those who have not contributed at all to their own retirement system. Their salaries are quite good and there is no reason taxpayers should pay without the individual contributing as well. That makes no sense. Also true for medical benefits.

And btw, one motivation for disability retirements is that their monthly income is then tax-free.


Posted by not good enough, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:46 am

These people are being disabled in the service to our community and you're blaming the victims. This needs a complete overhaul of how the city supports its workers. When this happens in schools we have an uproar. When it happens to our workers we call "fraud"?!!!


Posted by Total Scam, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:49 am

To a large extent, this is a total scam to receive pension benefits tax-free. I agree with Martin L. - these "heroes" are untouchable. So the large scale fraud will continue.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:52 am

Unfortunately this is just another example of the union ff's taking advantage of the system and milking the taxpayers. Disgusting!


Posted by PaloAlto33, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:54 am

"The new report raises (but doesn't answer) big questions about the safety of Palo Alto's work conditions, the city's process for approving disability claims and the rapidly rising costs of retiree benefits. "

Safety of PA conditions? That's a joke. Everyone knows it's because the firefighters all angle to get on disability from a bad back, a sore knee, whatever. It's very, very lucrative to get on disability + pension. I know people who've retired on over 100K a year, at age 50-something. If you set up the incentives, people will naturally respond and try to get on disability.

Anyone who's active, whether due to their job or an active lifestyle, will have a few aches and pains by the time they are 50-55. Firefighters just get paid for it.

So by all means, investigate. Tell us what you find. :-)


Posted by to "not good enough", a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:55 am

"Not good enough", you are foolish - hopefully out of touch. Take an educated look at reality and it will shake you up - guaranteed!


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:57 am

> These people are being disabled in the service to our
> community and you're blaming the victims.

The question is: are they really disabled, or just gaming the system?

Public safety disability system 'ripe for abuse':
Web Link

Anyone who has any doubts can google "public safety disability fraud" and see what comes up.


Posted by all levels, a resident of Ventura
on Jun 28, 2013 at 11:02 am

Stuff happens all over. This IRS contractor takes the cake, okay, not cake, but $500 million, scamming as a veteran:

> WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a veteran of the Iraq War, dramatically chastised a federal contractor who claimed that a high school sports injury had rendered him a service-disabled veteran.

Speaking during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Duckworth vividly described to a committee witness, Braulio Castillo, how she lives in near constant pain after losing both of her legs during her service as a combat pilot.

Castillo cited his foot injury, suffered at a military prep school, as the basis for his IT company's application for special status as a "service-disabled veteran-owned small business." The application was granted, and his company, Strong Castle, was given preferential treatment in federal contract bids.

"Does your foot hurt?" Duckworth asked Castillo, who answered yes.

"My feet hurt too," said Duckworth. "In fact, the balls of my feet burn continuously, and I feel like there's a nail being hammered into my heel right now. So I can understand pain and suffering, and how service connection can actually cause long-term, unremitting, unyielding, unstoppable pain."

"I'm sorry that twisting your ankle in high school has now come back to hurt you in such a painful way, if also opportune for you to gain this status for your business," she added.

Over a six-month period in 2012, Strong Castle won contracts with the Internal Revenue Service worth as much as $500 million. Web Link

re: local civil servants - my father died too young, after 30 years as a firefighter before all the safety precautions (breathing apparatus, etc..) came in that might have helped him live a longer life. We should fight fraud at all levels. We should not throw the baby out with the bathwater because a bunch of anonymous posters have a jones against working people who are part of a union.


Posted by bravo to PA Weekly, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2013 at 11:09 am

Thank you Palo Alto Weekly for covering this news - this is the kind of information about our local government that we taxpayers need to know about. This needs looking into, both by our local journalists and our city governing officials. To those who say back off, I think this merits investigation because it strongly appears fraud or other gaming of the system is occurring by our union workers, and WE taxpayers have to foot the costly bill. For those who file legit claims, no problem, you should have no issue with shining sunlight on all the claims and payouts, and if gaming of the system and/or fraud is found, I trust you support prosecuting to the full extent of the law.


Posted by cid young, a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2013 at 11:15 am

After many years using Local 2400 Firefighters, the Coastside opted to use CAL FIRE, and a different Union, Local 2881. The firefighters at CAL FIRE work more days per month, and might get called to cover in another CAL FIRE contracted area, if vacation or sick leave leaves the other area short staffed. This saves money so there is far less unplanned overtime.($$$)
Some Firefighters in the former Department chose to get jobs elsewhere so they could keep their cushy work schedule, (I believe it was 2 (24 hour shits)days on 4 days off.) CAL FIRE Chiefs and upper management are very professional. It seemed the former District under L 2400, allowed things to slip through the cracks. When, after 5 years of switching to CAL FIRE, 3 CFPD Board Members (A majority of the 5 member board) did not wish to renew the contract with CALFIRE.
Guess what? ...after a damning Grand Jury report, and much Citizen complaining at monthly board meetings to please keep CAL FIRE, the three failed to renew the contract on June 30th, 2012, which lead to a Recall of the 3 majority Dirctors, thereby turning into a successful community revolt and a crushing 2-1 t Special Election held April 9th, 2013. The Three Recalles, even with Local 2400 massive financial backing, only garnered 1/3 of the votes needed to hold their seats, while voters turned them out with a stunning 66% of the votes to KEEP CAL FIRE. This week, the new Board voted unanimously to Re-contract with CAL FIRE for 7 years.


Posted by Phillip, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2013 at 11:21 am

This is a complete scam. They retire off you tax dollars at a young age with outrageous benefits and then scam you further by being "disabled." BART workers do the same thing and yet they have the gall to talk about going on strike. When are the taxpayers of this state going to get a clue??


Posted by 35 year resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2013 at 11:25 am

As a health care provider I have seen some of this abuse in my practice. There appears to be a tactic taken by some PAFD employees to put in enough time for a full pension and then conveniently get injured and placed on disability. I am curious as to how many of these "medically retired" personnel then go on to private sector jobs and double dip.


Posted by Josh, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2013 at 11:26 am

If paramedic services are driving the disabitly rate up, maybe it's time to contract this service out like other cities do.


Posted by cid young, a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2013 at 11:43 am

A neighbor of mine once worked for CHEVRON and went out on a disability claim, BUT they had someone watch him coming and going with no visible problems, once he was out on disability. They nailed him for workman's compensation fraud and he actually spent time in jail. Once out of prison, he never was gainfully re-employed, and eventually was suspected of embezzling a local non-profit he became involved with. When they started to investigate the fraud he suddenly left California "due to a sick mother" and later, his home was foreclosed. This is a cautionary tale for those that attempt to milk the system.


Posted by Total Scam has it right, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I agree. Would never fly in the private sector..


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 28, 2013 at 12:23 pm

disability due to backpain from sitting too much


Posted by Bucky, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 28, 2013 at 12:41 pm

My first inclination was to say, "Too many hands in the cookie jar." But then I thought: If Palo Alto has some of the highest pay and benefits around for its firefighters, then they're likely to stay in the job forever, and get old on the job, and be prone to more injuries. However, if the pay and benefits were on the low end of the scale, and firemen would get hired and trained in PA, and then transfer to other cities later to get better pay and benefits, then PA would have a younger dept. generally and have less injuries.


Posted by Concerned Retiree, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Privatize both the fire and the paramedic "services." We should contract out not only fire department functions (whatever that comes to -- four or five fires a year?) and certainly all paramedic services.

Why should we be indebted to such bloated department? There are far better uses for PA $$.


Posted by Concerned Retiree, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Privatize both the fire and the paramedic "services." We should contract out not only fire department functions (whatever that comes to -- four or five fires a year?) and certainly all paramedic services.

Why should we be indebted to such bloated department? There are far better uses for PA $$.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Sadly, the efficiency of our city is not a concern of our esteemed city council.


Posted by Too Funny, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jun 28, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Never mind that understaffing of these fire and police positions add to extra hours on the job per employee,and that the City Manager is clueless and befuddled with the new findings. I am sure he will recommend a blue ribbon committee to address this perplexing issue. What a dysfunctional city. What a pity that city council has hired a city manager who obviously has minimal managerial skills.


Posted by PA Citizen, a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm

This is expected, unfortunately.

I have never, in years of private sector negotiations, found myself so fortunate as to be seated across the table from a negotiating entity as overmatched to the task as the PA city council. This bunch of lawyers and career politicians have about as much business sense as a middle of the pack high schooler with zero training in negotiation or sound business principles. The unions have run roughshod over our low-capability representatives: they just "imposed" a raise on the already overpaid unions while doing nothing about the spiraling pension debt. Leaving a disability system open to such abuse is another.

If anyone with any business sense ran Palo Alto, the unions would be immediately adjusted down to market rate (the salary at which the market will produce qualified workers) which is probably 20-50% downward, and if they were obstinate as expected, the jobs would be outsourced to the private sector entity that could perform the work most efficiently.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2013 at 6:21 pm

All of these disability claims are processed through the City Human Resources Department. I suggest people start looking there and determine if it's fraud, incompetence, or a combination of the two.


Posted by Anne, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 28, 2013 at 7:16 pm

The citizens should look into Cal Fire, mentioned above. The peninsula could have fine fire service for less financial overhead. These future bills will crush us, the kids who will be asked to pay these exorbitant bills in the future.


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 28, 2013 at 7:41 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

The original reason that may apply ( my 1st ex was a CPA ) is that a REGULAR RETIREMENT PENSION IS SUBJECT TO FULL TAXATION AT NORMAL TAX RATES..( the CPA helps lower a tax burden with advice ). A DISABILITY RETIREMENT PENSION IS TAX FREE!!! So many people facing retirement in the public sector FAKE SYMPTOMS and get a " wink and a nod " from doctors in on the scam.
What is really biased is that the average disability retirement ( like mine due to TWO strokes and the loss of use on my left side ) MUST GO THROUGH THE SYSTEM TWICE TO GET THE PAID-FOR BENEFITS THE PERSON IS ENTITLED TO!
Yes, my first application was rejected. ( that is why some legal prostitutes know that EVERYONE LOSES ON THAT FIRST APPLICATION! The TV ads you see. )

My SECOND visit ( I was still wheelchair bound at the time ) took only 15 minutes to get the disability benefits I have paid for over the decades.

I think that these examples of " gaming the system " will explain the high disability rate among our supposed " public ( often unionized and union doctors automatically sign the disability paperwork ) servants have screwed the taxpayers they supposedly work for...

Like I said on the homeless issue ( maybe ) THE FREE RIDE IS OVER!!


Posted by Gat gat gat OH!, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 28, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Looked in the Yellow Pages under "Doctors, Union" and didn't see any.

Neither was "legal prostitutes".

If everyone thinks there's so much fraud going on, should b easy enough to bring a solid example forward, as opposed to anecdotal gibberish.


Posted by Rob Roy, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 28, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Many, if not most, firefighters retire early with disability issues. it is one of the risks of being in that profession. DUH!


Posted by RobRoy, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 28, 2013 at 9:29 pm

BTW, my brother in law is a paramedic, and he has been shot in the chest twice--by people he was trying to save. Thank God for bullet-proof vests!!!


Posted by Annette, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2013 at 6:28 am

It can't be all that hard to establish a system in which REAL job-caused disabilities qualify for a disability retirement and normal/age-related/genetic/lifestyle choice disabilities do not. No one begrudges a truly disabled firefighter his or her due, but the system invites abuse, esp w/the presumption that a condition is job related. There simply aren't enough fires or other potentially physically dangerous situations in this town to believe that the quoted PA disability numbers are legit. Maybe a percentage-based system would work: if 20% of FF time is spent in peril, then assume 20% of the person's disability (if any) is a job-related disability. Consider: if a FF who is also an avid tennis player ends up with tweaked knees or a rotator cuff problem, is that a job related disability or a lifestyle choice-related disability? At some point the pendulum has got to swing back to reasonable territory. If we don't give it a push in that direction soon our financial obligations will be greater than our resources.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 29, 2013 at 7:32 am

> Many, if not most, firefighters retire early with
> disability issues. it is one of the risks of being
> in that profession

Every job has risks. When there are on-the-job injuries, how many of these injuries are "ordinary", and how many are debilitating—worthy of a "disability pension"?

Firefighters do not fight many fires, these days. Nationally, the number of fires in which firefighters are involved has dropped to about 3-4% of the total callouts for a given city. Locally, it's even a little lower. As mentioned in another post, advances in firefighter safety equipment (air tanks, radio identification, robots, and better training) has reduced the number of firefighter deaths and injuries significantly. And, from CalPERS data, it's clear that firefighters do not die within ten years of retirement.

This issue of fraud and abuse involving disability pensions pops up in the news, from time-to-time:

Monday, May 10, 2004
Sacramento Bee Examines Rising Cost of Disability Pensions for Retired Public-Safety Employees:

Web Link

In a special report, the Sacramento Bee on Sunday examined industrial disability medical pensions for retired public-safety personnel, which are a "growing expense" for the state that have "escaped scrutiny" even as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and lawmakers "wrestle with the record deficit."


More Questions In CHP Disability Fraud Probe (2006):
Web Link

Nov. 24 - KGO (KGO) -- We've been telling you about the CHP turning over nearly two dozen suspicious cases of potential medical pension fraud to the state. But, the state's largest pension fund for public employees is forbidden by law to investigate some of those cases.
---

The public sector pension system has become out-of-control. Disability abuse is small potatoes, compared to the trillions that are estimated to be needed to fully fund the fantasy vision of the public sector unions, and their bought-and-paid-for politicians:

Web Link

Abstract
Across the United States, state and local government-sponsored pension plans are in trouble. They are dangerously underfunded to the extent that their assets are unable to meet future liabilities without either outsize investment returns or huge cash infusions. Over the past several years, estimates of the total size of the public pension problem in the U.S. have ranged from $730 billion in unfunded liabilities to $4.4 trillion. Many financial economists believe that the true size of the total unfunded liability lies closer to the larger estimates than it does to the smaller.
-----

If local politicians are unable to deal with the small number of abuse cases in their own domains, how will they deal with the national problem?


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2013 at 8:06 am

the_punnisher is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]
That disability fraud problem is nation-wide. I cited my source, where are yours?

You realize that the TRULY DISABLED ( all disabled, both public and private, like myself ) are the real victims.

Or do you get your kicks by abusing the disabled? One has to wonder....


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2013 at 8:30 am

the_punnisher is a registered user.

BTW, Thanks to the posts with the FACTS about this ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM that no one wants to talk about.

My contribution to society includes creation of the WWW out of DARPAnet ( I trained on the TCP/IP, foundation for both ) and the systems that created the Space shuttle that were used at NASA-AMES and the 747. Both " flew " on the Cray Supercomputers before they were flown real life.

I think that the other advances ( good & not so good ) by use of that fantastic tool is one of my best examples of a contribution to society, wholesale instead of retail like the majority of public employees. It is a small number of public sector employees that game the system and hurt the truly disabled.

These people are causing the underfunded pension problems that hurt everyone. They deserve our contempt and both civil and criminal charges.

Oh, you do not find these other fraud creating people in the YPs. However, if you talk to union shop stewards, you find these people and are steered to them. One of the unseen " benefits " of belonging to a union....


Posted by aids, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by More Information , a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 29, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Almost all of the comments above refer to firefighters and their disabilities. Today's Daily Post gave the number of firefighters versus the number of police officers retiring with disabilities - about 1/2 were police officers. This ratio is fairly reasonable since police deal with violence more that do firefighters.

Mt. Martin asked a number of questions and pointed out the Grand Jury report has too little detail to assess the problem clearly. At the least follow up should be made to determine who is gaming the system and who is legitimately disabled.


Posted by John, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2013 at 2:55 pm

"What a pity that city council has hired a city manager who obviously has minimal managerial skills"

Unfortunately your city manager has managed to pay himself more the the governor, president, senators etc. He has priorities after all.

He also has a "staff" that rivals the same.

Library fiasco, disability scams, across the board raises, developers running wild, bloated manager structure, sustainability positions...

I'd say he's managing very well, if you're not a taxpaying resident.


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2013 at 9:04 pm

This speaks volumes about the character of Palo Alto employees.


Posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 30, 2013 at 4:45 am

ARE you REALLY going to even whisper fraud on my father who went out on disability at the fire department after contracting tuberculosis?????? ARE you REALLY going to fight to lower the disability pay for men like him??? PLUEEZZE...I believe it was the late '40's or early 50's that he filed in high court in San Francisco for his (and every fireman's)legal right for disability from the Palo Alto Fire Department. Bad enough he had contracted the disease ~and having to fight in court was more than wrong that he had to endure. C.Kidder 1917-1979


Posted by Frank, a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2013 at 5:22 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Michelle, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2013 at 7:39 am

Nothing will convinced me that being a Palo Alto Firefighter is different than being one in any of the neighboring cities. Someone was not "watching the store". These unfunded pensions will cost Palo Alto millions of dollars for a long time.


Posted by bravo to PA Weekly, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Will anything come of this - an investigation - Or will city council sweep this under the rug. I think this should be directly addressed by our elected officials.
PA Weekly, please follow up. Thank you.


Posted by jake, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 30, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Classic!


Posted by @july, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2013 at 10:33 pm

One of the recurring stories I hear from doctors is about workers who come to their clinics with the sole purpose of getting disability certificate. Basically, the patient is in the office not to get treatment but to convince the doctor that even a minor condition qualifies him or her for lifelong disability.


Posted by thankful, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 1, 2013 at 8:00 am

I would just like to thank all the firefighters for risking their health and safety to protect and help me and my family! PAFD is an amazing group of men and women!
Everyone should show your support to these people! And everyone should have the families of the 19 firefighters who died in Arizona on 6/30/13. this tragedy should remind everyone to show more respect to our local heroes!


Posted by Nineteen under smoke blankets, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2013 at 8:55 am

thankful,

Good call. Let's retire this back and forth bashing for a day or two out of respect for the tragedy in Phoenix.

We can then spend the rest of the year screaming on and on....


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 1, 2013 at 10:53 am

i am thankful and appreciate the work done by all folks in our country and around the world. Whether you are a nuclear engineer or a farmworker, I respect all who get up, produce, and earn a living.

I also am sad that 19 workers died in AZ. I am especially sad for their families.

I am also disgusted with the PAFD union employees who sleep more than they work, are overpaid by a factor or 2-3 times, have a relatively safe and sedentary job, and continually whine and wheedle with the politicians to take more money from the taxpayers. Not my heroes. When I see a PA union fire employee i think of a bottomless pit for hardworking citizens.


Posted by Time Out, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:17 am

Quite a series of posts here! Whereas PA firefighters are paid excessively above and beyond other local firefighters, yes, that should be addressed. But holy-moley! the animosity that goes well above and beyond that!

Leads to a lot of questions, like: do first responders that have their lives shortened or die in the line of duty, do they all get the mythical "union doctors" fantasized above? Did the 19 that got burned alive under some tinfoil fire protection device all have the mythical union doctors?

@taxpayer is having a "sad" about the firefighters burned alive, yet she is "DISGUSTED" about the local boys supposedly "safe and sedentary" jobs. My choice of the word "animosity" appears to be understated.

LMFTFY: "This speaks volumes about the character of Palo Alto (online, anonymous posters)."

All of you: take a time out in your corners for a day.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Thank you for trying to calm things down Time-Out. Unfortunately the daily onslaught of irrationality and excess outrage on this topic, and almost every other topic, on this website won't stop.

Are these writers really a sample of the Palo Alto community or are they just the lunatic fringe? Often the letters are hysterical and way over the line of civility.

The picture of Palo Alto on these pages is becoming one of a dysfunctional, unfeeling, angry, and oft-times racist "community."

Maybe it's good for readership, but it's bad for the community for stimulate the hostility with a careful rotation of hostile "stories" -- while leaving REAL news unreported, or left to the large SF or SJ newspapers/TV stations to report.

BTW -- having worked with firefighters locally and in LA, and also having needed them for a house emergency and for 2 cardiac responses, I have utmost respect for them.

Yes, it is true that there is "down time" just as there is for any emergency responders (police, emergency room personnel), but when these people are called up the work is specialized and often dangerous. Nope--you couldn't do their job.

If there is a salary issue, Palo Alto should enter negotiations and stop screaming.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 1, 2013 at 12:31 pm

> questions, like: do first responders that have their
> lives shortened or die in the line of duty

CalPERS released a study a few years ago that put to bed the myth that firefighters die sooner than other people, once retired:
Web Link


Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Wayne - thanks for posting the link about ff's longetivity rates. Most folks are aware of that. It is just the ff's and their union supporters who keep trying to muddy the picture by throwing in inaccurate data. The bottom line is that union ff's in the Bay area aren't satisfied just making three times the national average wage for an ff. They contribute to the campaigns of politicians like Price, Shepherd, Chavez (SJ), so these politicians give in to all their demands. They retire years ahead of the rest of us when they have worked relatively easy jobs. They they find ways to claim disability so they can avoid paying taxes. No problem, let the citizens pick up the slack.

Time to vote out the union politicians and get back to government for the people, instead of government for the unions.


Posted by Time Out, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Worst loss of first-responder life probably since 9/11, and wayne/resident can't give it a rest.

Your news link does not a link to the actual Calpers study. Without the link, it's pretty difficult to verify what's been written in this guys blog.

Here's a report on a study at U of Cincinnati: Web Link (excuse the bad formatting - it's from a PDF)

"One of the most dangerous occupations
in the world is becoming even more hazardous for
its workers — but a new study suggests that the people we
expect to protect us are not being adequately
p
rotected against the risks of their profession.
A study released by the University of
Cincinnati has determined that fi
refighters are at a greater risk of
developing four different types of
cancer than the general population —
and also suggests the protective
equipment firefighters are using is insufficient
in protecting them against cancer-causing agents.
In a report by the university's environmental health
department, researchers f
ound that firefighters are
twice as likely to develop test
icular cancer and have significa
ntly higher rates of non-Hodgkin's
lymphoma and prostate cancer than people in othe
r professions — and overall
found 10 cancers that
were either possibly or pr
obably related to firefighting.
The report also confirmed pr
evious findings that firefighters are at
greater risk for multiple myeloma,
which is a cancer of the bone marrow fo
r which there is currently no known cure.
The research is the largest comprehensive study to
date investigating cancer risk associated with
working as a firefighter and c
oncludes that firefighters need
better protecti
on on the job.
The findings were published in the November issue
of the Journal of Occupa
tional and Environmental
Medicine"


Posted by Fed up with typical pa comments, a resident of Southgate
on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:52 pm

You winey shots. Who are you to judge the danger both police and firefighters put themselves in every day to protect you and your family. If you came home from work with hearing loss from the sound of a fire engine you rode on, or endured the pain from wrestling a person on pcp, or try to fall asleep while trying not to think of the child you pulled from the bottom of a pool, or the abused people you face year after year, you might be the one saying you don't get paid enough. What is the most offensive is that you, the people who sit behind a desk, who dont have any idea what it takes to do that job can pass judgement. When there are no more people wanting to do those life saving jobs because of stuff like this, and the response time to save your loved one is slow because no one is there, you will pass judgement on that as well. There people get injured in so many different ways on the job. Give them their well deserved retirement, most never get hired again. Then let's have someone examine your salary.


Posted by nice try, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Time out, there's not one shred of evidence to any of your claims. Just another bogus study paid for by firefighters/IAFF so they can add lifetime cancer related medical costs to their already bloated list of medical benefits. What the fire unions are really attempting to do is extend the amount of years, post retirement, that they can still claim cancer is a work related disease.


Posted by Mindy, a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:59 pm

To time out,

Still does not answer why Palo Alto has almost the double rate of retired disabilities compared to other Bay Area cities. I wonder if the city has done a breakdown of what type of disability each firefighter has? That would be useful information for them and the public. Also, how much sick leave does Palo Alto empolyees use compared to other cities.


Posted by Time Out, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 1, 2013 at 3:14 pm

nice try: "Just another bogus study paid for by firefighters/IAFF "

PROVE IT.

- Prove that the University of Cincinnati is a bogus school paid for by firefighters.

- Prove the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine is bogus and paid for by firefighters.

You are so far over the line in your inept absurdity, that normal folks must just nod when they hear your rants and just start slowly backing away.

Also prove the UNION DOCTORS you pretend are there. Should be easy the way the whiners go on moaning about it. Here's a list of doctors you already called bogus, maybe it's them!!! Web Link

I have no problem with PA investigating why certain anomalies appear, or looking at if PA overpays, but the vitriol by many on this board is completely disgusting. And they can't even give it a rest for a day.

Sick, sick, sick.


Posted by Smokey T Bear, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 1, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Sad day for Smokey Web Link


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 1, 2013 at 4:16 pm

> link to original CalPERS study

Here's the link:
Web Link

And where's the link to the U. Cincinnati study?

Not even a date on the extracted text.

By the way, the BLS data shows that crews on fishing trawlers are at a much higher mortality rate than firefighters.

The loss in Arizona is indeed tragic. Everyone is saddened by this event. But being a Vietnam-era Military Officer, I keenly remember our nation experienced young men of the same age and inclination to serve their communities/nation dying in far greater numbers—on a daily basis. Do you remember?


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 1, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Remember this:
Web Link

Firefighters in palo alto face nowhere near the dangers thatbthe Arizona firefighters faced. And also remember that a certain Sunnyvale council member has alwya pushed for mor and more money for our firefighters.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 1, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Time out's antics are pretty standard ff union modus operandi. Call others "sick, sick, sick" if you try to discuss facts. Spread unsubstantiated data and call it fact.

I'm all for safety employees and like another poster said I respect workers in general. I just get so disgusted with the local union ff's and their "i'm a hero", pay me more attitude.


Posted by JG, a resident of Portola Valley
on Jul 1, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Wayne - appears that was the link to the Cincinnati study Web Link Your study shows firefighters generally live as long as the CALPERS populations, Cincinnati shows more cancers.

But the reason I'm jumping into this is your very poor judgement in starting a bit of a ****ing match with your comments "But being a ... , I keenly remember ... dying in far greater numbers—on a daily basis. Do you remember?"

Is that where you want to go? One death is a tragedy. The 5,000 deaths in Iraq were an abomination. The tens of thousands of injuries in Iraq, the signature wound being traumatic head trauma, are/were obscene.

But for you to bring up the 50K deaths in Vietnam is atrocious. Would it make a difference if I bring up the Seoul? 35K dead? You need to back off, brother.


Posted by Why, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 1, 2013 at 9:43 pm

..do public safety employees get paid these exorbinant salaries and benefits and ALSO get paid overtime that isn't? You'd think people making these wages and extreme benefits would at least have to actually "Work Overtime" to get paid overtime. Apparently the public safety unions have have an exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that requires employees to work more than their scheduled hours. The current FD contract allows for employees to take the week off, fill in for one shift, and get paid their weekly pay rate plus 24 hours at time and one half (36 hours). They don't need to work overtime to get paid overtime.

In the above example the FD employee can take the entire week off by using sick leave, holiday pay, vacation pay, or any combination of the above. The above FD employee would receive 56 hours pay for the shifts he/she didn't work and also receive 24 hours pay (24* times the overtime rate of 1.5 (time and one half)) or 36 hours.

For working one day, under the FLSA exemption, the Fire Department Employee earns 56 hours at straight time plus 24 hours at time and one half (36 hours), for a straight paycheck of 92 hours for the week; even though the employee only actually worked 24 hours.

You just can't make this stuff up, but it does help to explain how some employees make an extra 100K in overtime.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Human nature 101:

Palo Alto employees have the same opinion of you as you have of them.

Unfortunately, they have the ability to exploit you, whereas you have no recourse.

What is the fix? I'm not sure there is one. The exploitation has been going on for decades and no one has been able to stop it.


Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 2, 2013 at 1:03 am

If I were a fire fighter and had listened to the "citizens" of Palo Alto with their "eliter than thou" attitudes, snap judgements on anything and everything--- as if their economic success elevated them to some judgmental god status, etc...if there were a fire and I were called I would look for any excuse to drive slow, arrive slow, spray slow. Hell, I'd love to swig back some brew and just watch the fire.

If I were a police officer and had to listen to the same, be talked down to constantly, etc., I'd relish the day for any and all "pay back".

If I were a city employee after Prop D passed, with all the disrespect shown, and some water leak occurred, some storm damage, etc....I'd move SLOW and take my time also.

If I were a PA teacher and had to suffer with the parents here, I'd look for ways to skew the Star Tests such that PA ranked last in the state and then watch the parents and Real Estate Agents go bonkers and form committees and such to deal with the problem.

But that's just me. Probably most city employees still try to do a decent job as they work in this stench of PA.


You all have created the climate, now live in it. But don't stop the whining, it's so YOU!


Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 2, 2013 at 1:08 am

Oh, and of course, if I could sock it to you all with a fake disability claim, that would be SO VERY SWEET!


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 2, 2013 at 8:38 am

> Cancers

I recognize that possible post-retirement cancers are not the same thing as mortality rates, per se—unless those cancers are all fatal. Medical science has yet to advance to the state where it can identity the source of all cancers—such as those that might have been caused on the job. While lung cancers are attributed to smoking, and people working in close quarters with asbestos have developed other kinds of cancers—the exact source of all cancers, such as in firefighters, with 100% medical certainty is hard to believe. If cancers are also linked to genetics—such studies will ultimately not be all that useful.

Since post-retirement health care data is very hard for the public to come by, these sorts of studies need to be taken with a grain of salt. The City of Palo Alto might be able to do such a study. For instance—how many Palo Alto public safety people have retired with a cancer-related disability that their doctors have certified as "job related"? No doubt other studies will be done, over time. However, one study does not the truth make.

> Would it make a difference if I bring up the Seoul? 35K dead?

The costs of our great society are often expressed in terms of money and lives. We honor those who served, and those who died—but we don't use their deaths to suppress discussion about the present, or the future.

The poster objected to our discussing Palo Alto disability retirement rates because of the tragedy in Arizona, These two topics have nothing to do with each other. I brought up the Vietnam-era death count to point out that our country has lost young men in great numbers, from time-to-time, in order to live in what we nominally call a "democracy"—where "free speech" is the norm, not the exception.

Hopefully we all can ponder this issue of "freedom", and its costs, come July 4th.


Posted by Hero, a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I'll start by thanking Anon for his continuing support. I'll also express my frustration that so many of you still don't seem to get the big picture. Firemen are not like the rest of you. We are incredbily brave, strong, fearless, and handsome. You all need to learn to value and appreciate the value we bring to your community. We need lots of money so we can have time to enjoy all the toys (boats, ski mobiles, vacation houses etc). With all the time off we have we need to have toys to keep us busy. Because we are special we deserve to eat at the best restaurants. Most of us don't spend a lot of time with formal education so at least you can be happy that we are not bargaining that taxpayers pay for our kids college.

So suck it up and just accept that if you want to employ amazing heroes, you need to be abgle to pay for us!


Posted by KKKKKKKarl, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Ex-Employee, a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2013 at 1:41 pm

My neighbor is a retired PAPD officer living off a plush medical retirement. I'm sure he would give it all back after falling off a second floor parking garage and having a 300 pound man land on top of him. I wonder which quack doctor has done the three back surgeries to cover up the fact that he's cheating the system and ripping off the Palo Alto tax payers.


Wayne:
In the link to the Calpers study they equate safety employees living longer to the fact that there are more disability retirements. So your assertion that ties mortality rates and job duties doesn't directly correlate.


Posted by thanks, ex-employee, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 2, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Posted by Ex-Employee:

"My neighbor is a retired PAPD officer living off a plush medical retirement. I'm sure he would give it all back after falling off a second floor parking garage and having a 300 pound man land on top of him. I wonder which quack doctor has done the three back surgeries to cover up the fact that he's cheating the system and ripping off the Palo Alto tax payers."

The article isn't about the few people receiving legimitate disbility payments during retirement. It is really about about Palo the culture of Alto Police & Fire (especially the Fire Department) coming in as an outlier for disabilityy claims, and by a wide margin, abusing the system. It certianly appears that these employees that are the first to promote increased taxes are working within a culture of employees that are gaming the system in an attempt to not pay taxes on their ALREADY EXCESSIVE PENSION PAYOUTS.

Just one more reason to reduce FD staffing and increase private paramedic coverage. Why does PA have over 100 fire fighters to begin with. Sounds like taxpayers have been sold beachfront property in Nevada. The PD contract is also a bad deal.


Posted by follower of Dr. Myron Gananian, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 3, 2013 at 7:53 pm

[Post removed due to copyright infringement.]


Posted by Manny, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 7, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Wow, I love popping over to the PA site and visiting my neighbors! Makes me feel better. Do us all a favor, close a couple firehouses, cut you police force in half, whatever. Make us look better, raising our house values and our criminals will go over there when the pickings get easier!

Love how one disability claim is okay, but the rest are ALL FRAUD!!!! by a wide margin abusing the system! Yeah!

A-maz-ing.


Posted by S. Coen, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 8:51 am

The firefighters and police officers in Palo Alto deserve better then the childish harassment and immature statements and inaccurate information that has been spoken about. If you really want the truth then you need to review what are the " requirements" that allow a public safety officer ( that is both police and fire) to fit the criteria for a work related disability retirement. This information is readily available through State of California, I believe through the EOC and also each city has the information. There is always a very very minor number of people that may slip through the cracks who really do not qualify but the majority DO qualify. That goes for any work place injury including the private sector, and mostly in the private sector is where this abuse is located. Do you think that if a women firefighter or police officer who is pregnant deserves to go out on disability retirement because during labor she injured her back and even though she "may" have had a previous minor back injury that she deserves this disability retirement? Well that has happened. But will anyone say anything? No.Why? Because that might be seen as some type of discrimination. Yes there are injuries within the police and fire department that have happened DUE to allowing the physical fitness requirements to be lowered thereby allowing LESS qualified police and firefighters to be hired and yes these individuals have an increased injury rate. But that is what happens when the City does not listen to the personnel who oversee the testing and physical agility exams but prefer to sub out the agility tests to a private company. Thats ok because the City saves alot of money doing this and they do not have to pay overtime costs to have the trained, experienced and qualified firefighters or police officers monitoring this. Hey you get what you pay for. Lower standards make's it easier to hire the handicapped and thereby quickly hiring and filling vacancies.
The majority of work related injuries are real and the personnel have been injured in a just and truthful manner . From injuries sustained fighting fires and yes there may not be very many fires but we still have them to medical calls from lifting up the gurneys with patients to helping older folks who have slipped in the shower or tub and our firefighters respond to assist and strain there backs as they are lifting up the elderly to training exercises to falling off a fire engine while stepping out of the cab at 2 am rushing to a heart attack call and many more. If you are querious then maybe the city can share with you how many of these injuries occur. Rather then be critical, why not first see first hand what is involved and how the accidents happened before condemning the firefighters and police.
Quite ripping our employees apart.


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