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9/11 First-Responder Diagnosed with Fibromyalgia Wins Fight to Receive Line-of-Duty Pension

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9/11 First-Responder Diagnosed w/Fibromyalgia Wins Fight

9/11 First-Responder Diagnosed w/Fibromyalgia Wins Fight

A police officer who served more than 300 hours at Ground Zero in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks will receive a line-of-duty pension, thanks to a state appeals court ruling.

Annmarie Sheldon was a first responder on 9/11 and served more than 300 hours at the site after the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers.  She was assigned to a security post a block from Ground Zero on October 4, 2001, when she began experiencing shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and severe chest pains. The following March, Ms. Sheldon was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

The symptoms of fibromyalgia are numerous, but typically include by bone and muscle aches accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood problems. It is often triggered by physical or psychological trauma.

In 2008, Ms. Sheldon filed for disability retirement, but the medical board, citing no evidence for its conclusion, determined that even though she was clearly suffering from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, neither of the conditions were related to 9/11. The pension board then voted 6-6 on her application (six union representatives voted yes, six city representatives voted no, effectively denying her disability. She took ordinary retirement in 2009.

After reapplying several months later, the medical and pension boards again rejected her application. Ms. Sheldon filed an Article 78 petition in New York State Supreme Court challenging those decisions, but she lost. The trial court “did not discuss the WTC presumption or analyze petitioner’s claims pursuant to the presumption,” the appeals court said.

If a pension board concludes that an illness it not related to 9/11, it must offer credible medical evidence of some other cause. If it is unable to do so, the applicant must receive a tax-free disability pension equal to three-quarters of his or her final average salary.

According to the appeals judges, the medical board focused on questions primarily concerning whether the scientific evidence Ms. Sheldon presented regarding the link between heavy (toxic) metal poisoning and fibromyalgia “was speculative and conjectural.” The judges said that didn’t matter, quoting a previous decision saying the WTC presumption means that “unlike ordinary [disability-pension] claimants, first-responders need not submit any evidence – credible or otherwise – of causation to obtain the enhanced benefits.”

The city Department of Law said it was still determining whether to appeal.

The attorney for Ms. Sheldon, Jeffrey Goldberg, of Parker Waichman LLP, said that Ms. Sheldon’s victory does not ensure that future claims by first-responders who say they developed fibromyalgia due to exposure to the toxic debris swirling around the Ground Zero site would be honored. disclaimer: This article: 9/11 First-Responder Diagnosed with Fibromyalgia Wins Fight to Receive Line-of-Duty Pension was posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 at 3:12 pm at and is filed under Other Lawsuits, Toxic Substances Lawsuits.

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