Fort Worth council asked to deny injured officer’s benefits

Posted Monday, Jul. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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A Fort Worth police officer who is paralyzed from the chest down could lose her extended leave benefits if the Fort Worth City Council votes Tuesday to deny a request to extend them for a year.

Lisa Ramsey, who was shot while trying to arrest a suspected drug dealer over 10 years ago, wants the council to permit her to continue to work and collect her line-of-duty leave benefits. If the council votes to deny that request, it could force her into medical retirement.

City officials say that they must comply with a state law involving workers compensation. Civil service rules state that when an officer is injured, the employee should receive up to a year of leave with full pay, which can be extended to allow an officer time to recover, said Assistant City Manager Susan Alanis.

Ramsey’s benefits have been extended several times, according to city documents.

But when Ramsey eventually became eligible for lifetime workers compensation benefits because of her injury, those payments boosted her into collecting more than her base salary, Alanis said. Ramsey is getting $77,292.80 in line-of-duty benefits and $35,373 in lifetime workers compensation benefits.

“The combined payment for lifetime workers comp and civil service line-of-duty benefits should not exceed what their normal base pay would have been,” Alanis said. “The city has gone beyond what the law allows, and we need to correct that.”

Ramsey can work and take leave — she has 2,181.66 hours of available paid leave — and if she chooses medical retirement, she would earn more than her base salary.

Ramsey has been working 20 hours a week, but she has been unable to work since November due to medical complications from her injuries. She said if she loses her extended-leave benefits, her pay would be cut in half.

“I’ve been told that we’ve had a number of officers get hurt, and we need a policy in place,” Ramsey said. “I kind of feel like I’m being made an example of. They are saying we need to be in compliance and we need to clean everything up.”

Ramsey said she is five years away from retiring and wants to continue working to support her daughter and to help with expenses relating to her disability.

She might return to work Wednesday, but she has requested to do some of the work from home because she has an open wound and must stay in bed for long periods of time.

Ramsey is concerned that if she loses her line-of-duty benefits that she will have to work 40 hours a week and accrue leave time or use time she already has if medical issues arise.

Ramsey has worked in the gang unit office and is now in the employment affairs office, where she helps with background checks and examinations. The work involves using a computer and making phone calls.

Ramsey has asked to do some of the work from home to reduce the likelihood of having additional medical complications, which could cost the city more money.

“The chief [Jeff Halstead] said it’s difficult to monitor someone, but if I log into a computer or use a cellphone, that can be tracked,” she said.

Sgt. Steve Hall, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, said he is disappointed that the city wants to change the rules.

“They made promises to her verbally, and through their actions, to help her reach retirement,” Hall said. “They made accommodations for her...”

Hall said he is concerned about how the change in the way the city handles benefits will affect police officers.

“This always brings up doubt in an officer’s mind. If something happens to me, are they going to change the rules in mid-game?” Hall said. “With our recent concerns over workers comp and lack of support from workers comp, is our well-being going to be protected?”

Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696 Twitter: @fwstliz

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