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Report: Firefighters, Paramedics Have Collected Over $27M In Tax-Free Disability

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Abuse of disability benefits by Chicago Police officers hit the headlines over the weekend, and now, a published report says the firefighters have run up a big tab for the city too.

As WBBM Newsradio's Bob Conway reports, the Chicago Sun-Times says there are currently 390 Chicago Fire Department firefighters and paramedics on disability, collecting more than $27 million tax free through their pension fund.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Bob Conway reports


That is more than the number of police personnel collecting disability, even though the Fire Department has half the number of total employees, the Sun-Times' Tim Novak and Chris Fusco report.

The Fire Department employees on disability are also eligible for free medical insurance for themselves and their families, the newspaper reports.

And the report says like police officers, the firefighters rarely return to work.

The paper also quotes a Fire Department spokesman as saying personnel "on disability can hold another job," if the job doesn't conflict with their physical limitations.

The Sun-Times points to one specific case. Patrick J. Kehoe was identified as a retired Chicago firefighter in an Emanuel TV spot when the mayor was running for office last year, but Kehoe wasn't really retired, the Sun-Times reported. He was actually on disability after slipping on a driveway during a hazardous materials call three years ago, and gets $91,113 a year in tax-free disability pay, the newspaper reports.

A spokesman says Mayor Emanuel has ordered an evaluation of disability benefit programs to assess areas in need of reform."

Emanuel also addressed disability abuses in the Police Department on Monday. He said reforms are needed, because many officers clearly deserve the benefits and abusers are ruining it for everyone.

"They do very serious work, and it's there to protect them, and everybody knows there are a few bad actors who are ruining it for everybody else," he said.

For that reason, the mayor said Monday that he is asking his financial team to outline changes.

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