§ 16-167. Disability.  


Latest version.
  • (a) Disability benefits in-duty. Each firefighter who is a member in the system and who shall have become totally and permanently disabled, while, actively employed as a firefighter with the city to the extent that he is unable, by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, to render useful and efficient service as a firefighter, and which disability was directly caused by the performance of his duty as a firefighter shall, upon establishing the same to the satisfaction of the board, be entitled to a monthly pension equal to either, (i) two and one-half (2½) percent of his or her compensation for a member separating from service prior to October 1, 1998, or (ii) three (3) percent of his or her compensation for a member separating from service on or after October 1, 1998, multiplied by the total years of credited service, but in any event the minimum amount paid to the member shall be forty-two (42) percent of the member's compensation. For the purposes of this paragraph, compensation shall be deemed to be the greater of the member's average compensation based upon his or her pay status at the time the disability occurred or his or her average final compensation.

    (1) Any condition or impairment of health of a firefighter caused by tuberculosis, hypertension or heart disease resulting in total or partial disability or death shall be presumed to have been suffered in the line of duty unless the contrary is shown by competent evidence; provided, that such firefighter shall have successfully passed a physical examination upon entering into such service, including a cardiogram, which examination failed to reveal any evidence of such condition; and provided further, that such presumption shall not apply to benefits payable or granted in a policy of life insurance or disability insurance.

    (2) The presumption provided for in this paragraph (2) shall apply only to those conditions described in this subsection (2) that are diagnosed on or after January 1, 1996.

    a. Definitions. As used in this paragraph (2), the following definitions apply:

    1. "Body fluids" means blood and body fluids containing visible blood and other body fluids to which universal precautions for prevention of occupational transmission of blood-borne pathogens, as established by the Centers for Disease Control, apply. For purposes of potential transmission of meningococcal meningitis or tuberculosis, the term "body fluids" includes respiratory, salivary, and sinus fluids, including droplets, sputum, and saliva, mucous, and other fluids through which infectious airborne organisms can be transmitted between persons.

    2. "Emergency rescue or public safety member" means any member employed full-time by the city as a firefighter, paramedic, emergency medical technician, law enforcement officer, or correctional officer who, in the course of employment, runs a high risk of occupational exposure to hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, or tuberculosis and who is not employed elsewhere in a similar capacity. However, the term "emergency rescue or public safety member" does not include any person employed by a public hospital licensed under F.S. Ch. 395, or any person employed by a subsidiary thereof.

    3. "Hepatitis" means hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis non-A, hepatitis non-B, hepatitis C, or any other strain of hepatitis generally recognized by the medical community.

    4. "High risk of occupational exposure" means that risk that is incurred because a person subject to the provisions of this subsection, in performing the basic duties associated with his or her employment:

    i. Provides emergency medical treatment in a non-healthcare setting where there is a potential for transfer of body fluids between persons;

    ii. At the site of an accident, fire, or other rescue or public safety operation, or in an emergency rescue or public safety vehicle, handles body fluids in or out of containers or works with or otherwise handles needles or other sharp instruments exposed to body fluids;

    iii. Engages in the pursuit, apprehension, and arrest of law violators or suspected law violators and, in performing such duties, may be exposed to body fluids; or

    iv. Is responsible for the custody, and physical restraint when necessary, of prisoners or inmates within a prison, jail, or other criminal detention facility, while on work detail outside the facility, or while being transported and, in performing such duties, may be exposed to body fluids.

    5. "Occupation exposure," in the case of hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, or tuberculosis, means an exposure that occurs during the performance of job duties that may place a worker at risk of infection.

    b. Presumption. Any emergency rescue or public safety member who suffers a condition or impairment of health that is caused by hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, or tuberculosis, that requires medical treatment, and that results in total or partial disability or death shall be presumed to have a disability suffered in the line of duty, unless the contrary is shown by competent evidence; however, in order to be entitled to the presumption, the member must, by written affidavit as provided in F.S. § 92.50, verify by written declaration that, to the best of his or her knowledge and belief:

    1. In the case of a medical condition caused by or derived from hepatitis, he has not:

    i. Been exposed, through transfer of bodily fluids, to any person known to have sickness or medical conditions derived from hepatitis, outside the scope of his employment;

    ii. Had a transfusion of blood or blood components, other than a transfusion arising out of an accident or injury happening in connection with his present employment, or received any blood products for the treatment of a coagulation disorder since last undergoing medical tests for hepatitis, which tests failed to indicate the presence of hepatitis;

    iii. Engaged in unsafe sexual practices or other high-risk behavior, as identified by the Centers for Disease Control or the SurgeonGeneral of the United States or had sexual relations with a person known to him to have engaged in such unsafe sexual practices or other high-risk behavior; or

    iv. Used intravenous drugs not prescribed by a physician.

    2. In the case of meningococcal meningitis, in the ten (10) days immediately preceding diagnosis he or she was not exposed, outside the scope of his or her employment, to any person known to have meningococcal meningitis or known to be an asymptomatic carrier of the disease.

    3. In the case of tuberculosis, in the period of time since the member's last negative tuberculosis skin test, he or she has not been exposed, outside the scope of his or her employment, to any person known by him or her to have tuberculosis.

    c. Immunization. Whenever any standard, medically recognized vaccine or other form of immunization or prophylaxis exists for the prevention of a communicable disease for which a presumption is granted under this section, if medically indicated in the given circumstances pursuant to immunization policies established by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the U.S. Public Health Service, an emergency rescue or public safety member may be required by the city to undergo the immunization or prophylaxis unless the member's physician determines in writing that the immunization or other prophylaxis would pose a significant risk to the member's health. Absent such written declaration, failure or refusal by an emergency rescue or public safety member to undergo such immunization or prophylaxis disqualifies the member from the benefits of the presumption.

    d. Record of exposures. The city shall maintain a record of any known or reasonable suspected exposure of an emergency rescue or public safety member in its employ to the disease described in this section and shall immediately notify the member of such exposure. An emergency rescue or public safety member shall file an incident or accident report with the city of each instance of known or suspected occupational exposure to hepatitis infection, meningococcal meningitis, or tuberculosis.

    e. Required medical tests; pre-employment physical. In order to be entitled to the presumption provided by this section:

    1. An emergency rescue or public safety member must, prior to diagnosis, have undergone standard, medically acceptable tests for evidence of the communicable disease for which the presumption is sought, or evidence of medical conditions derived therefrom, which tests fail to indicate the presence of infection. This paragraph does not apply in the case of meningococcal meningitis.

    2. On or after June 15, 1995, an emergency rescue or public safety member may be required to undergo a pre-employment physical examination that tests for any evidence of hepatitis or tuberculosis.

    (b) Disability benefits off-duty. Every firefighter who is a member in the system with ten (10) years or more credited service who shall have become totally and permanently disabled to the extent that he is unable, by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, to render useful and efficient service as a firefighter, which disability is not directly caused by the performance of his duties as a firefighter, shall be entitled to a monthly pension equal to either: (i) two and one-half (2½) percent of compensation for a member separating from service prior to October 1, 1998, or (ii) three (3) percent of compensation for a member separating from service on or after October 1, 1998, multiplied by the total years of credited service, but in any event, the minimum amount paid to the member shall be twenty-five (25) percent of his compensation. This provision shall not apply to a member who has reached early or normal retirement age. Any disability occurring after termination shall not constitute a basis for disability payments. For the purposes of this paragraph, compensation shall be deemed to the greater of the member's average compensation based upon his or her pay status at the time the disability occurred or his or her average final compensation.

    (c) Conditions disqualifying disability benefits. Each firefighter who is claiming disability benefits shall establish, to the satisfaction of the board, that such disability or death was not occasioned primarily by:

    (1) Excessive or habitual use of any drugs, intoxicants or narcotics.

    (2) Injury or disease sustained while willfully and illegally participating in fights, riots or civil insurrections.

    (3) Injury or disease sustained while committing a crime.

    (4) Injury or disease sustained while serving in any branch of the armed forces.

    (5) Injury or disease sustained after his employment as a firefighter with the city shall have terminated.

    (6) A condition pre-existing the firefighter's membership in the system. No member shall be entitled to a disability pension because of or due to the aggravation of a specific injury, impairment or other medical condition pre-existing at the time of membership in the system; provided, that such preexisting condition and its relationship to a later injury, impairment or other medical condition be established by competent substantial evidence. Nothing herein shall be construed to preclude a disability pension to a member who, after membership in the system, suffers an injury, impairment or other medical condition different from some other injury, impairment or other medical condition existing at or prior to said membership.

    (d) Physical examination requirement. A firefighter shall not become eligible for disability benefits until and unless he undergoes a physical examination by a qualified physician or physicians and/or surgeon or surgeons, who shall be selected by the board for that purpose. The board shall not select the member's treating physician or surgeon for this purpose except in an unusual case where the board determines that it would be reasonable and prudent to do so.

    Any firefighter receiving disability benefits under provisions of this section shall be periodically re-examined by a qualified physician or physicians and/or surgeon or surgeons, who shall be selected by the board, to determine if such a disability has ceased to exist. If the board finds that the retiree is no longer permanently and totally disabled to the extent that he is unable to render useful and efficient service as a firefighter, the board shall recommend to the city that the disability retirement income be discontinued and the retiree be returned to performance of duty as a firefighter, and the retiree so returned shall enjoy the same rights that member had at the time he was placed upon pension.

    The cost of the physical examination and/or re-examination of the firefighter claiming and/or receiving disability benefits shall be borne by the board of this system. All other reasonable costs as determined by the board incident to the physical examination, such as, but not limited to, transportation, meals and hotel accommodations, shall be borne by the board.

    If the firefighter recovers from disability and re-enters the service of the city as a firefighter, his service will be deemed to have been continuous, but the period beginning with the first month for which he received a disability retirement income payment and ending with the date he re-entered the service of the city will not be considered as credited service for the purposes of the plan.

    The board shall have the power and authority to make the final decisions regarding all disability claims.

    (e) Disability payments. The monthly benefit to which a member is entitled in the event of the member's disability retirement shall be payable on the first day of the first month after the board determines such entitlement. However, the monthly retirement income shall be payable as of the date the board determined such entitlement, and any portion due for a partial month shall be paid together with the fist payment. The last payment will be:

    (1) If the firefighter recovers from the disability prior to his normal retirement date, the payment due next preceding the date of such recovery; or

    (2) If the firefighter dies without recovering from disability or attains his normal retirement date while still disabled, the payment due next preceding his death or the one hundred twentieth monthly payment, whichever is later.

    (3) Any monthly retirement income payments due after the death of a disabled firefighter shall be paid to the firefighter's designated beneficiary or beneficiaries as provided in F.S. §§ 175.181 and 175.201.

    (f) A disabled member may select an actuarially equivalent optional form of benefit in the same manner as a retired member, or in such other actuarially equivalent form as may be allowed by the board.

(Ord. No. 98-18, § 2, 10-20-98; Ord. No. 2000-12, § 2, 9-5-00)