A disabled police officer stands guard over Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. An injured firefighter scrambles up mountains and through woods on his TV show, “Northwest Hunter.” Though clearly able to work, says The Oregonian in Portland, they continue to collect thousands of dollars in benefits each month from the Portland Fire and Police Disability and Retirement Fund. Disability programs in Oregon and most major cities serve as a temporary safety net for injured police or firefighters while they are unable to work, moving them off benefits and back to jobs as soon as possible.
The Oregonian found the city’s system is an open checkbook, with rules that allow injured police and firefighters to collect checks until they retire, even if they can earn a living in another job. One in nine Portland police and firefighters is on disability, and they go out at four times the rate of their peers statewide. Although injury claims typically close after about a year in other Oregon cities, half the recipients in Portland’s $15-million-a-year system have been collecting checks for a decade or more.