Weight-Lifting Disabled Firefighter Loses Pension


Well, it looks like John Sauro won’t get to keep his disability pension, after all.  The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruling finding against him summarizes the story succinctly:

In July 1998, plaintiff suffered a right shoulder injury while performing his firefighter duties.  Mr. Sauro had been a firefighter since August 5, 1991.  In October 2000, the board granted plaintiff an accidental disability pension for his on-the-job shoulder injury.  In April 2011, footage of plaintiff lifting substantial weights at the gym aired on a local television channel.  The board subsequently ordered plaintiff to submit to an independent medical examination (IME).  At the 2011 IME, it was determined that the plaintiff remained disabled from his 1998 injury.  Again in 2013, the board directed plaintiff to undergo an IME, to be conducted by Brian McKeon, M.D., in Boston, Massachusetts; plaintiff refused to do so because, he asserted, he was bedridden due to both physical and psychological illnesses.  The city then hired a private investigator to undertake surveillance of plaintiff.  In September 2013, plaintiff was observed leaving his home, driving his vehicle, and shopping at various retail stores.  On December 18, 2013, the board voted to suspend plaintiff’s accidental disability pension based on his failure to attend the IME that had been scheduled for October 16, 2013.

To lay out the calendar, then, Sauro worked for seven years.  He then lived off of this benefit for 13 years, until WPRI’s Tim White caught him doing a strenuous workout.  The payments have continued over the course of the past seven years while the matter was tied up in court.

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As the decision suggests, the purpose of disability pensions is “to compensate work-injury-related disabilities and encourage qualified persons who are relieved of those disabilities to return to work.”  We shouldn’t have a system in which an injury on the job that doesn’t leave one unable to do any job becomes the equivalent of one of those old lottery tickets that paid out a decent annual income as a prize.

  • Mike678

    Swift Justice?

  • Northern Exposure

    And he will now become a firefighter again, re-injure himself and get a new, higher disability pension on the taxpayer dime. This is both good news and bad news.

    • Justin Katz

      Not yet. He has to return to the board and prove that he is fit for duty.

      • Mike678

        Perhaps he has already shown he is morally unfit?