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Previous back problems not enough to disqualify public employee from disability benefits

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Although an employee had a pre-existing condition, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled his on-duty injury qualified him for Class 1 impairment disability benefits from the Indiana Public Employee Retirement Fund.

PERF petitioned the COA for a rehearing of its Oct. 9 opinion in Ind. Pub. Emp. Ret. Fund v. Bryson, 977 N.E.2d 374, 379 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012). In that opinion, the court affirmed the trial court’s order that Paul Bryson was entitled to Class 1 benefits because he had a “covered impairment” that was the direct result of an injury that occurred while he was on duty.

In Indiana Public Employee Retirement Fund v. Paul Bryson, 49A04-1201-MI-2, the Court of Appeals affirmed its original opinion. Judge Cale Bradford dissented.   

At the rehearing, PERF contended no medial evidence supports the finding that Bryson’s on-duty injuries created an impairment. As it argued on its direct appeal, the retirement fund took the position that Bryson is impaired because of a pre-existing condition – degenerative disc disease – rather than because of any on-duty injuries.

The COA declined to reexamine the issue since it had previously found that any fund member who gets injured on the job will have an impairment that is the direct result of the physical injury or injuries even if that member had a pre-existing condition or health issue.

PERF also raised the new argument that Bryson’s on-duty injuries did not prevent him from doing his job. Rather, he was considered disabled as a preventative measure because of his pre-existing condition.

The COA dismissed that argument, asserting that it had already found Bryson to have a “covered impairment.”


 


 

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