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Thursday, January 5, 2023

Court Finds that Pension Code Does Not Require In Person Medical Examinations

In July 2020, a firefighter applied for an occupational disease pension, claiming that a stroke prevented him from performing normal work activity. The Pension Board selected three physicians to submit written medical opinions based upon the firefighter's medical records. The Pension Board conducted a hearing on the pension application and awarded an occupational disease disability pension to the firefighter. that Melton was disabled for service as a firefighter.  

The City appealed the Pension Board's award, arguing that the Pension Board's decision should be reversed on several bases, including that the three physicians selected by the Pension Board were required to have examined the firefighter in person as opposed to having provided opinions based solely on the applicant's medical records.  Section 4-112 of the Pension Code states, in part:

A disability pension shall not be paid until disability has been established by the board of examinations of the firefighter at pension fund expense by 3 physicians selected by the board and such other evidence as the board deems necessary.” 40 ILCS 5/4-112. 

The City argued that the selected physicians performed “only half their duties,” where they issued reports without first conducting in-person examinations. The Pension Board responded that conducting further in-person exams would only needlessly increase the cost of the hearing and delay its resolution. The trial court upheld the Pension Board's decision finding nothing in section 4-112 that precluded the physicians from reaching their opinions based on the firefighter’s medical records alone. 

The Appellate Court upheld the Pension Board's award in City of East Peoria v. Melton, holding that the plain language of Section 4-112 of the Pension Code does not require that the examination of the firefighter be in-person or that the applicant be subject to a physical examination, and the Court refused to read any such requirement into the statute. 

Post authored by Molly Anne Krebs & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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