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NYPD Officer Attacked With Hatchet Only Eligible for $27 a Day in Pension

By Murray Weiss | November 3, 2014 7:18am | Updated on November 3, 2014 9:31am
 Under a new rule, the city will pay Police Officer Kenneth Healey a reduced $10,000-a-year disability pension if he cannot return to work.
Under a new rule, the city will pay Police Officer Kenneth Healey a reduced $10,000-a-year disability pension if he cannot return to work.
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QUEENS — The rookie police officer severely wounded by a man wielding a hatchet would only be eligible for $10,000 a year in disability pension should his injuries prevent him from going back to work, DNAinfo has learned.

That's less than a third of what he'd have gotten if he had a few more years on the force.

Officer Kenneth Healey, who was hit in the head with a hatchet on a Jamaica street Oct. 24 and was transferred from his hospital to a rehab facility on Long Island days later, makes approximately $42,000 in yearly pay as a Tier 3 officer who came on the force after 2009, according to NYPD records.

Under the city's current disability rules, that makes him eligible for a yearly disability payout of 50 percent of his salary, for a total of approximately $21,000. 

However, under the city's new rules, instead of combining that with his federal Social Security disability payout money, which would be an additional $22,000 per year, every dollar that Healey gets from the feds would reduce his city payout by 50 cents.

That means his $21,000 city disability pension would shrink to $10,000 per year — or $27 a day — from the city, under the rules.

Combined with the federal money, that would mean a total yearly payout of $32,000 a year.

Had Healey joined the NYPD before 2009, he would have gotten three-fourths of his salary in disability, or $31,481 from the city — or $86 a day.

With his Social Security money, he then would have received a combined $54,481 per year.

The reduced payout stems from a pension change enacted five years ago that says police officers and firefighters hired after July 2009 who become disabled in the line of duty are no longer eligible for a traditional tax-free pension calculated at three-quarters of their final year's salary.

Healey, 25, was attacked by hatchet wielding radical Zale Thompson, 32, a recent convert to Islam who investigators said was inspired by violent Islamic groups.

Thompson was shot dead during the attack, which NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton labeled an act of terrorism.

Healey is the second NYPD officer to face the possibility of a reduced pension since the revised law went into effect.

Last April, Officer Rosa Rodriguez was nearly killed in a Brooklyn fire that claimed the life of her partner, Dennis Guerra.  She continues to recover from respiratory injuries and still requires oxygen when she exerts herself.

Rodriguez, a mother for four children who joined the NYPD in July 2010, was the first injured officer facing the prospect of a reduced disability pension, “On the Inside” reported.

Had she joined the force a year earlier, her pension would be $39,952 a year from the city compared to $15,600 annually, not including Social Security.

No officer or firefighter has been permanently disabled since the pension was changed.

Between 1976 and 2009, each of New York's governors have signed off on a provision that retained benefits for newly hired police officers and firefighters, protecting them from less generous pension plans for other recently hired state and local employees.

However, in January 2009, then-Gov. David Paterson vetoed a bill that routinely extended pension coverage for police and firefighters in a bid to reduce labor pension costs throughout the state during the height of the Great Recession.

Since then, Paterson has reconsidered his position, telling “On the Inside” that he supported a revision to the disability pensions in the wake of Rodriguez's injury.

There is a bill currently sitting before the state Legislature that would restore disability pensions to pre-2009 amounts, but Mayor Bill de Blasio has spoken out in opposition to the move, insisting it could cost the city $35 million a year — a figure widely disputed by the city’s police unions.

“When it comes to supporting disabled police officers, he says the city can’t afford it,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the city's police officers union. “This is not a financial issue, it is a very clear issue of right and wrong and failing to correct this inequity for officers is morally wrong.”

Lynch said the mayor, as well as other elected officials, only pays lip service to supporting the police, but fails to act when it counts.

Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association, said that it's crucial to restore the pre-2009 benefits.

"Society has always had a contract with first responders — in exchange for going in harm's way, society will provide for our family if we are killed or permanently disabled.”

Without de Blasio’s support, the City Council is unlikely to support a “home rule resolution” that the state Legislature would seek before voting for a change.

The mayor's office declined to comment.