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Vol.1 • No. 3 • December 2002

What's new this month

What does it mean to be boarded?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)?
Smallpox Update
Bone Marrow Drives
Holiday Stress Reduction
Upcoming Groups



Many of our members facing retirement or dealing with long term medical issues ask us how the evaluation process occurs. There are a number of boards which can appear to be a bewildering maze for the individual facing this process. In this column we would like to clarify some of the terms.


The BHS Physician Board (previously referred to as the 3-man/physician Board) consists of FDNY Medical Officers who concur on a members' fitness for duty or duty determination. The BHS Full Board is also considered a BHS Board but is reserved for medical complex issues. A member is recommended for a BHS Physician Board evaluation for any of the following:

  1. A member is on Light Duty or Medical Leave greater than 60 days.
  2. A member has had extensive surgery.
  3. A member is contemplating or has submitted a disability retirement application.
  4. A member is returning from a leave (i.e. personal leave, military leave or reinstatement) at least 1 year in duration.
  5. At the discretion of the medical officer, if additional input is desired for complicated cases or decisions.
  6. Whenever a member has an illness/injury that is considered permanently disabling by our Medical Officers.

An order for a BHS Physician Board appearance is initiated by an FDNY Medical Officer. Once a board is ordered, notification of an appearance date is made by mail through the BHS Medical Board Coordinator. The normal duration between the date the Medical Officer orders a board and the actual Board appearance date is 4 to 8 weeks. After the member is seen at the board, the minutes of the report are transcribed with a final report completed 3 to 5 weeks after the board date.

The member is responsible for the submission of all pertinent information prior to their appearance at the BHS Physician Board; this includes hospital records, surgery records, outside consultation test results and reports.

If the Board deems the injury/illness to be temporary, the member will be re-evaluated. The Board will summarize the medical plan for follow up evaluation/treatment and a date for reevaluation by the Board will be issued. The member is responsible for providing requested medical reports.

For Firefighters/ Fire officers: if the BHS Physician Board deems a member to be permanently disabled then the designation given is Recommended Limited Service or RecLss. The disability case is now automatically OPENED and the member may submit a Disability Retirement Application to the retirement desk. If the member DOES NOT submit a disability retirement application, the Bureau of Personnel will submit a Fire Commissioners' Application for Disability on their behalf.

The Pension Board, better known as the Article 1B Pension Board is comprised of three non Departmental physicians who evaluate the FIRE disability cases and make a recommendation regarding whether a member is disabled due to work (Accidental), non line of duty (Ordinary) or not disabled (Denial). The board may also send the member out to be evaluated by another independent consultant or for further testing before making a final decision. This board meets weekly.

Once the Article 1B Pension Board makes a determination, the record is sent to the Board of Trustees for finalization.The Board of Trustees meets monthly and is comprised of representatives from the Mayor’s Office, the City Comptroller, Fire Commissioner, the UFOA ,UFA and MEBA . The disability pension determination is finalized there, or may be referred back to the Article 1B Pension Board for additional clarification or if additional information is needed for re-evaluation. A disabled member is then entitled to apply for a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disablities Act. Members should apply via the EEO office.

For EMS: The process is similar to FIRE: If the BHS Physician Board deems a members' duty status as permanently disabled, they are designated Recommended Limited Service or RecLss. The member is directed to the EMS Compensation Desk at BHS to discuss opportunities for long-term light duty. Reasonable accommodation can also be pursued via the EEO office. Retirement disability can also be pursued through the NYCERS system and the Commissioner’s Application for Retirement.

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  1. What does it mean to be Boarded?
    • The BHS Physician Board determines the fitness for duty as well as duty determination of a member. The Article 1B Pension Board makes a decision regarding whether a disability pension will be granted and causality of the disability i.e. Ordinary (not work related) or Accidental (work related)

  2. Who sits on the various Boards?
    • The BHS Physician Board and the BHS Full Board consists of FDNY Medical Officers. The Article 1B Pension Board consists of three non Department physicians. They evaluate the BHS medical record and BHS Physicians Board report and make decisions about the pension, Accidental vs. Ordinary disability.

  3. What is the difference between the Full Board and BHS Physician Board?
    • The Full Board is a consensus of all FDNY Medical Officers on the duty determination of a member’s case. The Full Board meets monthly to review more complicated cases.

  4. Do I need to be present for the Board?
    • Your presence at the BHS Board is expected. For the Article 1B Pension Board you do not need to be present unless requested.

  5. How am I to dress the day of the Board?
    • Neat, civilian attire is appropriate; you may be examined by the Board physician(s) during your appearance. Please wear clothing that allows for easy examination of the affected area.

  6. Do I have to request a copy of my medical Board minutes or will they automatically be sent out?
    • A copy will be sent to you upon request.

  7. What does RecLss stand for?
    • RecLss, or Recommended Limited Service means that the BHS Physician Board feels that the members' injury / illness is permanent in nature and prevents them from returning to full firefighting / emergency medical duties.

  8. What is the next step after I am BHS Boarded and receive RecLss?
    • Firefighter/Officer may submit a Disability Retirement application with the Retirement Desk. For FIRE, BHS Board Minutes will be submitted to the Chief of Personnel who will initiate a Fire Commissioners' application on your behalf. EMS should contact the Compensation Unit at BHS to discuss the process through the NYCERS retirement system.

  9. Where does my medical file go after the BHS Board?
    • The BHS Medical Board keeps the file until the Board Minutes are received; then the file is returned to the BHS Medical Record Room. Once a disability application is filed, the Article 1B Pension Board keeps the medical file until their process is completed. For EMS, the medical file remains at BHS, but copies of relevant tests and the board minutes are submitted to NYCERS.

  10. When should I submit my disability application?
    • You may submit your disability application at any time.

  11. How soon will I be scheduled for the Article 1B Pension Board after I submit my disability application or the Fire Commissioner submits an application?
    • For FIRE, due to the high volume of retirement application submissions, it will take several months to be evaluated by the Article 1B Pension Board. An appointment is scheduled soon after the Retirement Desk enters the application into their database. You will be notified by mail by the Article 1B Pension Board when your paperwork has been received in their office. You can then review your paperwork with that office to be sure that your supporting documentation, such as CD72’s, tests and medical reports are available for review by that board.
  12. Do I need my CD 72 / CD73 / MDX3?
    • For FIRE: The CD 72 is essential for ortho/trauma related disability applications. The Heart / Lung / Cancer Bills are presumptive Bills; and therefore CD 72/73’s are not required. The Communicable Disease Bill requires an MDX3 (biological exposure version of the CD 73) for HIV exposure.
      For EMS: The Worker’s Compensation Supervisor’s Report of Injury is required for all injuries/illnesses. In addition, the MDX3 (the biological exposure report) is also a requirement for biological exposures.

  13. What happens if the Retirement Board (Article 1B Pension Board for Fire or NYCERS for EMS) denies my application?
    • The retirement board makes independent decisions concerning disability pensions. They do not decide about duty status. The BHS Board acts independently with close attention to both health and safety issues.

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The Federal Government through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has developed a smallpox vaccination program in response to the recent bioterrorism concerns facing our nation. This program will be accomplished in three phases, the first phase will address the hospital healthcare workers who would be needed to provide medical care to small pox victims until a full scale immunization program was completed. During phase two, first responders would be offered smallpox vaccination and during phase three, the remaining general population would be offered this vaccination.

This is a voluntary program. FDNY Bureau of Health Services has been meeting at regular intervals with the Department of Health to learn more about this program and to develop a working strategy that protects our members. We are awaiting word on whether FDNY personnel may be included in phase one. Currently, our planning includes developing an immunization program that will provide immunizations for our members in a non-emergent setting, before a case of smallpox should occur, as well as developing a plan for rapid immunization of our members should a confirmed case occur.

Since this will remain a VOLUNTARY program, members may decide whether they wish to participate in this program. There are guidelines that the CDC has set that will exclude some people based on their medical history. Since this is a LIVE vaccine with significant side-effects, these guidelines have been developed to exclude people at higher risk for these side-effects. Individuals with immune issues including HIV, cancer, current treatment with oral steroids, pregnant women, children under one year old, or history of immune skin diseases (eczema or atopic dermatitis) would be excluded. Also excluded are members who have a family member (in close contact) with immune problems, pregnancy, or immune related skin diseases (eczema or atopic dermatitis). These guidelines are in place for the non-emergent immunization to minimize side effects from this live vaccine. In the event of a true small pox case, these recommendations would certainly change.

The subject of smallpox vaccination will be discussed again in future articles as we continue to work with the Department of Health and the Centers of Disease Control to develop programs to protect our members while maintaining their health and safety.

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In the Season of Giving - the Greatest Gift: BONE MARROW DRIVES

For a number of years, FDNY has participated in Bone Marrow Drives through the New York Blood Center. Our members have given of themselves through blood samples to the National Marrow Donor Program in the hopes of matching individuals whose survival is predicated on a bone marrow transplant. Our members constitute the number one collective donor in the U.S. Every probationary class for the last number of years has participated 100%. This is a voluntary program; many may never be called, and if called, can decline if they choose to.

To date, there are 4547 participants( most volunteered while in probationary training). However, an additional 1500 members join either individually or through community drives bringing the total to between 5,000 - 6,000. After 9/11, some members have contacted BHS with interest in becoming a participant to honor their deceased FDNY friend who had participated in this program.

The NY Blood Center has been genuinely grateful for our Departments' efforts and for the generosity of our members who give of themselves each and every day.

During our Departments' darkest day, the members of the NY Blood Center searched like others for a way to help. Initiated by BHS, and spearheaded by Director Mary T. McLaughlin, a search was made of all FDNY unaccounted members in the Bone Marrow Registry. Their search resulted in 141 of our unaccounted members as participants in the marrow program. Of the 141, frozen blood samples were stored on 112; these frozen blood samples, we were told, were our best resource for obtaining DNA profiles to assist in identification. The Blood Center, with cooperation of FDNY BHS, the National Marrow Donor Program in Minnesota and the NYS Police Crime Lab in Albany were able to identify the location of the members' blood sample (both in Baltimore and Pittsburgh), transport the samples to Albany immediately for an attempt at DNA profiles.

This unprecedented effort resulted in 100% success rate in obtaining DNA profiles for these fallen members. These samples of blood, given to help others, became important in DNA identification of those deceased members.

Our Department is very grateful to the NY Blood Center, the National Marrow Donation Program and the NYS Police Crime Lab for their tireless efforts on our behalf. Even before 9/11, the fact that members of FDNY were the number one donor indicates our members' committment to helping others both on and off duty. This caring came back to us after 9/11; this is one example of how that spirit of goodness came back to us.

Our current participants exemplify the best our Department has to offer, to give of themselves to help others, a tradition that continues in each and every probie class. When our members gave their lives for others on 9/11, their past generosity of spirit served to help in identification of their remains with the DNA information of their blood samples.

The National Marrow Donor Program and the NY Blood Center came to our aid after 9/11 in the spirit of reciprocity that matches our members' spirit of giving. In the spirit of this season, we count our blessings and remember our friends.

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Though the holidays are an enjoyable time to be spent with friends and family, they can also tend to be quite stressful. You may have extended family visiting or even staying at your house. There is the financial stress from gift giving and family feasts. Your patience and energy can get sapped fighting the lines in crowed malls. So it is no surprise if you find yourself feeling lots of mixed emotions about the holidays as well.

Just because the holidays are stressful does not mean they cannot be enjoyable. You can try and avoid the anxiety and stress by taking the pressure off of yourself. Angelo Sacco, Clinical Supervisor at CSU Fort Totten advises, “remember to address personal needs. If you know that in the past you have been overwhelmed due to too may responsibilities then its important not to repeat that. Limit yourself. Keep things as easy and simple for you and your family as possible.” One of the best ways to keep things easy with the family is to make sure to take time for yourself and to allow your spouse and kids the same thing. The holidays may be a time of togetherness but sometimes too much of a good thing can cause tensions to rise. Just make sure to communicate the importance of ‘alone time’ so nobody’s feelings get hurt.

If you are a family liaison it is important to communicate to the families you are helping in addition to your own. Listen to them. Ask the families what their needs are and do not assume that they do or do not want attention from the Firehouse. Realize that as stressed as you may be, the season is probably even harder on them.

Most importantly, remember to breathe, listen constructively to your family, and trust yourself. The holidays are different for everyone so just know that it is okay to have different sentiments than your family members and fellow peers.

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EMS Support Group at Fort Totten Meeting time to be arranged. Please call Joanne O’Conner at (212) 570-1693 x323 for more information

Dads, Brothers, and Sons: An informational support meeting addressing the specific needs of Active Duty and Retired Department Personnel who lost a family member in the line of duty. For more information call Jason Leahey at (212) 570-1693 x300

American Airlines Flight 587

American Airlines flight 587 was the second most deadly plane crash in U.S. history. The members of the FDNY, on duty, off duty, and retired who responded to serve the community.

A group is being developed for Fire and EMS personnel who would like to discuss their experiences.

  • When: Mondays Time: 12:00 PM
  • Where: Knights of Columbus 333 Beach 90th Street, Rockaway Beach
  • For information contact: Shondell at (212) 570-1693.

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Dr. Kerry Kelly
Chief Medical Officer

Dr. David Prezant
Deputy Chief Medical Officer

Malachy Corrigan
Director, FDNY CSU

Mary T. McLaughlin
Director, FDNY BHS

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