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Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Court Upholds Denial of PSEBA Benefits to Firefighter

After a firefighter/paramedic was granted an on-duty disability pension for a back injury, he applied for benefits under the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA), which provides health insurance benefits for police officers and firefighters who are catastrophically injured in the line of duty. After a hearing on the application, the Village denied the PSEBA benefits, finding that although the firefighter was injured on duty, the circumstances of his injury did not meet the requirements of PSEBA that the injury occurred as the result of a response to an emergency. The firefighter appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court which upheld the Village's denial of PSEBA benefits.

The firefighter had argued that he was injured when he slipped on ice stepping out of an ambulance at an emergency call. The Village, on the other hand, claimed his injury occurred later in the day, after he had returned to the station, when he was trying to start a chainsaw and moving heavy tools. The Appellate Court reviewed the evidence submitted before the Village's hearing examiner and determined that the evidence supported the Village's decision to deny PSEBA benefits. First, there was no corroborating evidence that the firefighter reported the ice incident to a supervisor. Second, there were no eyewitnesses to the ice incident. Third, none of the incident reports for that day reference the ice incident; instead, all of the reports discussed the chain saw and tool incident as causing his back injury. The Court concluded that the hearing examiner's analysis of the evidence and application of the PSEBA test in reaching his decision was not arbitrary and his decision to deny benefits was not unreasonable. Thomsen v. Village of Bolingbrook


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