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More California chicanery; Iraq vet files suit, waits on VA

The "Grim Sleeper" case, which we discussed here, raised hackles in Los Angeles, with many there already upset about perceived excesses of the city's pension system. Now Los Angeles County prosecutors are looking into Randy Adams, unlike the suspect in the Grim Sleeper slayings, is a man who not only used to wear a law officer's badge but also was police chief in Glendale City, CA, then subsequently in Bell, about a 35-mile drive south from Los Angeles. According to a Sept. 24 article in The Los Angeles Times, the DA's office is "investigating former Bell Police Chief Randy Adams for having himself declared disabled for the job the day he was hired, an arrangement that could pay him millions in tax-free pension money, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said Thursday."

A deal with city administrator

This is one of those strange onions that yields layers of weird: Earlier in the week the Times had reported "that Adams struck a deal with former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo that guaranteed the incoming chief a disability retirement because of injuries he sustained years earlier. Under such a retirement, he would not have to pay taxes on half his pension income." Why, one might wonder--not to mention how--would someone be hired to work if he can't work? "Disability pensions are designed for employees who must give up a job because of a work-related injury, and the tax break is intended to compensate them for lost earnings, said representatives of the California Public Employees' Retirement System," according to the Times.

New salary? $457,000

Adams logged six years' duty in Glendale City, with a police force described as much larger than Bell's, yet his his reported $457,000 annual salary at Bell was about double that of the Glendale City job .  The city manager there was indirectly quoted in the article, saying that Adams "was not disabled and had never indicated to him that he should be entitled to a medical retirement." However, reports the Times:
Adams, 59, entered into the pact with Rizzo even though he had filed for a less lucrative non-disability retirement as he prepared to leave his job as Glendale police chief. That application was approved, but he rescinded it the same month his service officially ended in Glendale and he went to work for Bell in 2009, Glendale and state pension officials say.

Facing a civil suit while others face criminal charges

The California attorney general has filed a civil suit on Rizzo, Adams and others. Rizzo and Adams resigned their municipal positions following the newspapers reports of their high salaries. Salaries and pensions in Southern California have come under increasing inquiry and public condemnation in the past year. In addition to Rizzo's and Adam's troubles, "Eight current and former Bell, California, city officials arrested and charged Tuesday with misappropriation of funds and making or receiving illegal loans demonstrated "corruption on steroids," the Los Angeles County district attorney said," according to a Sept. 21 CNN story. Here's another story, indicating that Rizzo has been charged--separate from the civil case--and reported to considered a flight risk.

Iraq duty leads to lawsuit over toxic burn pit

On the flip side of the coin, the military gets its share of abuse in fighting for disability. Air Force vet Tim Wymore is "one of hundreds of veterans in 42 states suing the military contractor [Kellogg Brown & Root] that operated many of the burn pits" they contend have damaged them via exposure to toxic chemicals, according to a Sept 24 post at FairWarning.org. "The lawsuit contends that the veterans’ illnesses were caused by the mixture of fumes from plastics, solvents, medical waste and other trash burned at the pits. A federal judge ruled last week that the case could proceed. The contractor has said it was following the military’s instructions and bears no legal responsibility."

A litany of medical problems

According to a Sept. 12 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, the 44-year-old Iraq War veteran "has three lesions on his brain, another on his eye. He suffers from a blood disorder, a damaged esophagus and abdominal problems that led to the removal of most of his colon. He can barely stand, and then only with the aid of a cane." One of Wymore's big concerns--beyond what he believes is his own imminent death-- is that "should he die, the VA will not pay a survivor's benefit to his wife unless she can prove his death is directly related to his military service, a challenge he doesn't want to put her through," says the Post-Dispatch.

VA hopes he will get better

Get this. The VA acknowledges that Wymore does indeed have duty-related health problems. "But the VA believes his condition may improve. Because of that, the VA has yet to declare Wymore permanently disabled. As a result, his family is not eligible for many benefits. Those include medical insurance for his wife and college costs for their three sons." The VA has said it will review his status in 2012 to see whether he has improved.