BOSTON (CBS) – A former Worcester fire lieutenant who has received a disability pension for more than a decade is not healthy enough to return to work, according to an evaluation by a state-appointed doctor.
Massachusetts retirement officials ordered the medical review after an I-Team report about Ed Ryan and his physical fitness regimen.READ MORE: NH Legislative Leaders Speak Out Against Antisemitic Posts
Joseph Connarton, the executive director of the Public Employee Retiree Administration Commission (PERAC), confirmed the development to WBZ-TV on Thursday.
The I-Team received a tip in the spring, questioning why Ryan continued collecting a disability pension.
Under state law, public employees who qualify for disability pensions take home 72 percent of their salary tax-free. It means they earn roughly the same income compared to when they were healthy and paying taxes.
Ryan injured his arm fighting a fire in June 2003. Worcester public records show he has earned more than $375,000 in disability pension payments.
The I-Team watched Ryan participate in CrossFit workouts at a gym in Millbury, where he earned “athlete of the month” honors in April. In 2014, Ryan completed a “Tough Mudder” challenge for his 60th birthday.
When questioned, Ryan told the I-Team he would’ve returned to work, but it was his boss’ decision to put him on disability retirement.
“I even suggested to the Chief that he put me in fire prevention at the time and he said there were not any vacancies. So it wasn’t really my decision,” he said during a May interview.READ MORE: Man Arrested, Charged With Cold-Case Murder Of His Half-Sister In New Bedford
The I-Team found public employees receiving disability pensions rarely return to work.
According to PERAC, approximately 15,600 people have received disability pensions since 1997. But only 117 have returned to their jobs—less than 1 percent.
State law says employees need to return to the same job from which they retire. In Ryan’s case, that would have been as a fire lieutenant.
However, Connarton told the I-Team a state-appointed doctor who evaluated Ryan in June determined that he could not perform all the essential duties of that job.
Even if he had passed that medical threshold, the Worcester Fire Department would’ve needed to have a lieutenant vacancy.
Ryan declined to comment about the medical decision when contacted on Thursday.
But back in May, he told the I-Team he would have been happy to perform a few more years of service to retire with a regular pension.
“I’m not abusing the system,” he said. “I think it’s kind of antiquated myself, but who am I to judge?”MORE NEWS: As COVID Cases Rise In Massachusetts, Hospitalizations And Deaths Are Down from Last Year