Archives for July 25, 2008

Straining Credulity

Via Overlawyered, (a daily read for me and should be for you) I found the following:

A Boston firefighter who competed as a bodybuilder while on disability leave did not show up for work this morning despite being ordered back on the job by the fire commissioner.

Well, I can see that happening.

But, you say, to collect disability you have to have a physical exam that supports the diagnosis; in this case, it’s public record the disability was back pain:

He filed for a disability pension in April after Dr. John F. Mahoney concluded that he was "totally and permanently" disabled from a back injury. On May 3, just 15 days after the doctor decided Arroyo could no longer work, the firefighter competed in a national bodybuilding competition and finished eighth.

(emphasis mine)

For the record this is how the disabled applicant appeared in the event in question (a national competition in which he placed eighth):


Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe

Now, I’m just a dumb ER doc and not a Boston Neurologist, I don’t do disability physicals, but I examine patients every shift for back pain, and this physique would, to put it mildly, raise some red flags if the complaint was chronic back pain.  

It didn’t in this case:

"If someone is doing bodybuilding and doesn’t tell me, how the hell would I know?" said Mahoney when the Globe asked him Friday about Arroyo, a professional bodybuilder since 2003.

(there’s video at the link)

Read the articles; they’re some good writing and reporting.  There are disabled people in the world and a very small number of people who want to take advantage of any system, and disability is one of them.


It’ll be interesting to see how this comes out.