Study: High Disability Retirement in LA County Safety Agencies

March 12, 2007

Employees of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s and fire departments retire on disability pensions at a nearly 50 percent higher rate than their counterparts in 19 other California counties, according to a report by a human resources consultancy.

The 73-page report released last week by Buck Consultants was ordered by county supervisors after the Los Angeles Daily News reported more than three quarters of firefighters and over one half of sheriff’s deputies received job-related disability retirements in the decade prior to 2005.

The consultants’ report found that as of June 2004, 61 percent of county safety employees retired on job-related disability pensions. In the other 19 counties, the percentage was 33 percent.

The report also found that the county Employees Retirement Association approved job-related disability pensions for 53 percent of applicants in 2003 and 2004, compared with 18 percent in 15 other counties.

Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said that the agency welcomes the audit, but that such surveys should consider the relative physical stress on deputies who police the state’s largest counties.

A phone message left with the Fire Department seeking comment was not immediately returned.

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