FDNY EMT injured on the job denied disability pension

Hakeem Watkins was lifting a stretcher onto an ambulance when he suffered an injury to his spine


By EMS1 Staff

NEW YORK — An FDNY EMT who was injured on the job has been denied a disability pension.

NY Daily News reported that Hakeem Watkins was lifting a stretcher onto an ambulance when he suffered an injury to his spine. He had "several bulging discs and herniation in his lower back," according to court documents. He also suffered from depression.

In his first disability pension hearing, Watkins admitted that he had thoughts of harming himself. The New York City Employees Retirement System board ordered him to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

The board later found him fit to return to work and denied his application.

"You don't feel safe with me in the room, but it's OK to send me back out to deal with the public," Watkins said. "I'm extremely frustrated. I didn't go to work planning to get hurt – I really don't know what else to say because I've given them all my medical evidence and they still won't budge."

A doctor refused to let Watkins return to work, saying his injuries left him unable to continue working as an EMT. Watkins was terminated by the FDNY after 18 months on sick leave, according to the report.

A mental health doctor said Watkins' depression and psychological problems were "too severe" for him to return to work. However, another psychologist said Watkins was exaggerating his mental health symptoms.

Without approval from the board, Watkins is ineligible for lifelong disability pay.

The board declined to comment.

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