Last week we blogged the suspicious "total and permanent" disability of Boston firefighter Albert Arroyo, who celebrated his profound disability rating by placing 8th in 2008 Pro Natural Body Building Championship. Yeah, I know, he was just having a good day.
Not having a very good day is Arroyo's doctor, John Mahoney, a neurologist at Caritas Carney Hospital. Dr. Mahoney claims that Arroyo did remove his shirt during the most recent exam (which resulted in the permanent and total disability rating), Mahoney noted that Arroyo "had lost some weight and was working hard on his physical therapy and being fit." Mahoney goes on: "If someone is doing bodybuilding and doesn't tell me, how the hell would I know?" Excellent question, Doc. For starters, you might put your hands on his (rock hard) body and ask him to try a few push ups.
Mahoney concedes that his diagnosis is not looking too brilliant in the light of Arroyo's recent triumph. "I knew my practice would be destroyed. I accepted that. I am prepared to get [expletive]. I am [expletive] and it was in the stars." Which I amend (via Shakespeare): "the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars, but in ourselves..."
Mahoney goes on to say that were it not for the restrictions imposed on him by the doctor-patient relationship, people would understand that his diagnosis was legitimate. Here's hoping that some well-timed indictments lift those restrictions. I would love to know just what evidence Mahoney used to reach his dubious conclusions.
As the Boston Globe's Walter Robinson points out, this is not an isolated case of fraud. Boston firefighters retire on disability at a rate three times higher than those in other cities. Many of the "disabled" include high ranking chiefs - and therein lies the crux of the problem. As chiefs go, so go the line workers. Boston has a deeply rooted culture of disability among its firefighters. As we saw in the parking department of Philadelphia, disability cultures run from top to bottom. Chiefs on the take are hardly in a position to discipline line workers who want a piece of the action.
I am pleased to report that Albert Arroyo has been ordered back to his regular job as an inspector (no heavy lifting!). Meanwhile, the retirement board may want to take a closer look at the 25 firefighters whom Dr. Mahoney has rated as totally disabled since 2001. While there may not be any more bodybuilders in this group, I would not be shocked to find a few on boats in Florida, gamely working to overcome their disabilities by reeling in 200 pound sportfish. It's not easy, but it sure beats putting out fires.