Author: Richard Fairburn
By Stephen Rex Brown New York Daily News
NEW YORK CITY — He wants a bigger slice of the pension pie.
An obese ex-NYPD cop sued the city Tuesday, seeking a more generous disability pension for heart disease he attributes to his stressful time on the force.
Jose Vega, 46, seeks an “accidental disability” pension, instead of the “ordinary” disability he gets now, which pays around $4,000 monthly, he said. The more lucrative pension would earn him about $2,000 extra, tax-free.
Vega began suffering “cardiac symptoms” while on the job in late 2007, he said. He had hypertension, sleep apnea and “morbid obesity,” the suit says.
In an interview with the Daily News, Vega said he topped out at 395 ponds around the time he retired in June 2014.
“My body retained like 100 pounds of fluid in one year — from 2013 to 2014,” Vega explained.
“I was never a fat guy. I used to work out. But as a result of this heart condition and hypertension, I became medically — or however you want to say — physically affected.”
Vega, who started on the force in 1997, said his cardiac issues were the result of “job-related stress.”
He gave several examples of conflicts with his superiors which resulted in him being placed on modified duty and twice suspended. In 2011, he said he was disciplined for shoving a suspect as he brought her into the 42nd Precinct stationhouse.
“They were trying to force me out because of my heart condition, disciplinary situations,” he said.
Yet Vega’s case does not revolve around his admittedly spotty record, his attorney Warren Roth says.
The law says a New York City firefighter or police officer with a heart condition suffered the infliction through their jobs — unless evidence proves otherwise, Roth said.
The Pension Fund first denied Vega full disability in 2013. In December 2016 Justice Barbara Jaffe ordered the fund to reconsider its decision. The fund again denied Vega full disability, prompting his new suit.
“They knew Vega is not medically able to do his duties and they didn’t apply the correct standard,” Roth said, adding that studies have shown cops are vulnerable to obesity due to poor diets and long hours in police cruisers.
Vega seeks an order that the fund reconsider his case or that the judge require he receive accidental disability.
“We’ll review Mr. Vega’s complaint,” a Law Department spokesman said.
The city’s Police Pension Fund said it could not respond by deadline to a request regarding the amount of Vega’s pension.
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