Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Gov. signs bill to assist injured firefighter


WORCESTER— Gov. Deval L. Patrick has signed a bill making it possible for a firefighter who suffered life-threatening injuries while on the job to receive a special pension from the city.

Under the legislation, Firefighter Mark S. Stomski will receive a pension equal to 100 percent of his regular pay at the time of his retirement, instead of the usual 72 percent he would receive through a disability pension.

Once he has reached retirement age for firefighters, Firefighter Stomski’s pension will be reduced to the rate for an accidental disability.

He will also be eligible for health insurance through the city, on the same basis as other retirees, and he will be responsible for payment of his share of the premiums.

Before taking action on his retirement, the legislation requires the Retirement Board to request the state Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission to appoint a medical panel composed of three physicians to examine Firefighter Stomski. The legislation also allows the Retirement Board to forgo such an examination, however, based on a majority vote of board members, and instead review existing medical records and other relevant information concerning Firefighter Stomski.

If the medical panel concludes that Firefighter Stomski is physically incapacitated for duty as a firefighter, and that the incapacity is likely to be permanent and result in his premature death, the Retirement Board has to approve the special pension for him as stipulated in the legislation.

Upon the approval of such a pension, Firefighter Stomski will not be required to undergo re-examinations by a medical panel or other physician to determine his eligibility for the special benefits.

City Manager Michael V. O’Brien said yesterday that the city will proceed with the retirement process, as called for in the legislation.

On Sept. 23, 2006, Firefighter Stomski, 36, suffered injuries “likely to result in his death” when responding to a fire at 11 Boyden St. He experienced a shortness of breath and chest pains at that fire, about a month after suffering a leg injury when he was struck by a truck while responding to another fire.

He was diagnosed by local doctors as having a blood clot in his lung. He was referred to a specialist in San Diego and was told nothing could be done to treat his condition.

Firefighter Stomski, who weighed 170 pounds when he worked as a firefighter, was down to 90 pounds in April, and had about 17 percent of his lung capacity.

In April, the City Council voted 10-1, authorizing the filing of special legislation to make it possible for Firefighter Stomski to receive the special pension. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Mayor Konstantina B. Lukes, who contended the special pension lacked sufficient checks and balances to protect the city.

Her concerns centered on the lack of language requiring Firefighter Stomski to participate in follow-up medical examinations to determine his continued eligibility for the pension, and language that allows him to earn, in addition to his pension, up to $7,500 through alternative employment.