Montgomery County is changing its system for disability retirement benefits for county employees, although the change is expected to face challenges because it was implemented through council vote rather than a collective bargaining agreement.
Disability benefits will now be awarded through a two-tier system: partial and full incapacity. Council member Phil Andrews pushed for the changes, saying the new system can distinguish between a "bad back" and paralysis. He adds the old disability system was easy to abuse.
"Between 2004 and 2008, 62 percent of police officers who retired during that time frame, retired with disability," he says. "This raised a lot of red flags because it was so much higher than other jurisdictions."
At first, council members tried to get the changes made through collective bargaining with unions, but they eventually bypassed that process. Council member Marc Elrich thinks that sends a bad message.
"I worry about whether our employees are going to work to the rule at the county level. And continue this 'You did this, we're going to do this. You're going to this, we're going to this,'" he says. "Which I don't think in the long term is good for county residents."
Elrich abstained during the final vote, while councilman George Leventhal cast the lone "no" against the measure.
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