NYPD officers whose careers were ended after getting sick with COVID are asking the city to approve their disability pensions — just like officers receive with other injuries suffered in the line of duty.
“I have an oxygen tank with me 24/7, and I need assistance with everything — to take a shower, to walk, to go up and down the staircase,” 31-year NYPD veteran Lt. Yvan Pierre Louis told the NY Daily News.
Louis was given his last rites after he contracted COVID early in the pandemic and was subsequently in a coma for 168 days before he regained consciousness. Since then, he hasn’t been the same.
“I’m not the same person I was before,” Pierre Louis said. Louis most likely contracted COVID in March 2020 while working with prisoners at Manhattan Central Booking.
City officials in the former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration did not approve COVID-19 pensions until further studies of COVID-related disabilities were conducted.
Now, the small group of officers affected by COVID are seeking approval from Mayor Eric Adams’ administration and the city’s board of Police Pension Fund.
Officers like Pierre Louis cannot work but still need to support a family. While Louis is not officially retired yet, NYPD will likely specify the reason for his retirement as due to disability.
The fate of COVID-retired officers will likely be dependent on the Pension Board’s decision in the case of Detective Mike Smith.
Smith, who claimed he was never sick for 30 years on the job until he got COVID, was put on a ventilator.
Since the illness, Smith acquired Stage 4 kidney disease and was at one point dependent on dialysis. He also suffered from nerve damage and hardened arteries in his ankles.
“We’ve made a lot of progress, but I’m one blood test away from being back on dialysis,” Smith said. “The old saying: ‘Can you walk and chew gum at the same time?’ I can’t because I have stabilization issues. I have to concentrate when I walk because if I don’t, I stumble.”
NYPD doctors declared Smith disabled, but he is still technically “out sick” until the Pension Board can approve his disability pension for retirement.
The board consists of twelve trustees, with six votes belonging to police unions and the others belonging to city officials, including the mayor and the police commissioner. A majority vote is needed for approval.
Disability lawyer Nick Cifuni said the city is concerned that approving pensions for COVID-afflicted cops would lead to a flood of similar cases.
Police officers have been hit particularly hard with COVID-related deaths and injuries since the pandemic compared with other professions due to the nature of their work.
Lou Turco, head of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association, said that cops “have not had the luxury of working from home or not coming to work.”