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November 28, 2023 COVID News

COVID

35-Year-Old Firefighter Injured by COVID Vaccine and Forced to Retire Sues New York City for Disability Benefits

A New York firefighter is suing New York City for denying him expanded disability payments after he was forced into early retirement due to permanent heart damage from the city-mandated COVID-19 vaccine. His lawyer says the denial is part of a “disturbing pattern of deliberate cruelty” toward the vaccine-injured and anyone who spoke out against the mandates.

obrian pastrana covid vaccine nyc lawsuit feature

A New York City firefighter diagnosed with permanent heart damage after he received the COVID-19 vaccine is suing the City of New York and its Fire Pension Fund.

O’Brian Pastrana, whose injury forced him to retire, filed the suit after the Fire Pension Fund’s Board of Trustees in June denied his request for more substantial disability benefits, the New York Post reported.

The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) Board of Health doctors concluded Pastrana’s heart damage was caused by the COVID-19 vaccine, which was mandated for all New York City workers as a condition of employment. He is now living on only half his regular salary.

Pastrana received his first dose of the vaccine on Oct. 29, 2021. He suffered an immediate anaphylactic response, with hives, swelling of the lips and other symptoms that persisted for weeks.

He was treated in an emergency room (ER) and later seen by an FDNY doctor who diagnosed him as suffering from a COVID-19 vaccine side effect. The symptoms persisted and were intermittently severe, causing Pastrana to return to the ER and take time off from work.

Despite his ongoing allergic reaction and concerns he raised with his FDNY doctors about getting a second dose of the vaccine, the department required him to take the second shot, which he did on Nov. 23, 2021.

Pastrana said his health deteriorated significantly following the second shot. “I was having shortness of breath, chest pain and I was super fatigued — I couldn’t do anything. I was afraid I was going to die,” he told The Defender.

His wife, a nurse, was worried he had a heart condition. But despite how severely ill he was, he said, “I was 35, I have no cardiac history, I thought it couldn’t be that.”

After another trip to the ER in February 2022, court records show Patrana was diagnosed with myocarditis and was almost in heart failure.

“They told me, ‘You can never again be a NYC firefighter,’” Pastrana said. He couldn’t believe it. “I kept saying to myself, maybe if I get a second opinion or a third opinion, maybe I’ll hear something different. Every single one of them said the same thing.”

In March, an FDNY doctor took him off full duty and recommended retirement.

There are different levels of disability retirement benefits available to firefighters, depending on what causes a disability. The fire commissioner granted him the minimal “ordinary disability retirement,” which pays only 50% of his $92,000 salary, minus taxes.

Christina Martinez, his attorney, said he should be medically and legally eligible for “accidental disability benefits,” which are typically awarded when a firefighter suffers an accidental injury and pays three-quarters of the firefighter’s salary, without taxes taken out.

On the ordinary disability retirement, Pastrana said, “I can barely keep food on the table. My mortgage is more than I can afford.”

Pastrana, a father of two and the primary breadwinner in his household joined FDNY as an emergency medical technician at age 20. After a 2013 promotion, he worked for 10 years as a firefighter and hoped to one day become a fire marshall.

Losing his job and his future was “beyond devastating” he said. “I was completely blindsided.” He became severely depressed and anxious and was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Almost worse, he said, was the lack of support from FDNY, to which he had dedicated his entire adult life. “It was the ultimate betrayal,” he said.

Pastrana is now asking the judge to upgrade him to an accidental disability pension. “I just want to be able to support my family,” Pastrana wrote in his petition to the court.

‘Who takes responsibility?’

Prior to filing the lawsuit, Pastrana petitioned the Fire Pension Fund for the upgrade. In June, at the Board of Trustees meeting, Martinez made his case to the board.

His doctors and the Medical Board of the New York City Pension Fund agree the injury was directly linked to the vaccine, and was classified as a “service-related” injury, she argued, which ought to entitle him to the expanded benefit.

The 24-member board is comprised of 12 members from the firefighters union and 12 from different city departments, including the fire commissioner.

Several union-affiliated board members made impassioned pleas to the entire board in favor of Pastrana’s request.

Pastrana was following the orders of his superiors, the fire department and the City of New York when he got the shots, Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFOA) consultant Louis Sforza said during the pension fund meeting.

“Just about every doctor in the record indicated that he was being retired as a result of COVID-related disease as a result of the vaccine. There should be no question about him receiving a disability” Sforza said.

Once Pastrana had a reaction to the first shot, “there should never have been a second shot … I don’t think we need to be a doctor to understand that,” Sforza said.

Another member commented that the medical evidence supporting Pastrana’s claim was “extraordinary” and he had never seen such compelling evidence for any claim.

“Who takes responsibility?”Jim Brosi from the UFOA asked, when people are compelled into an action and suffer for it.

The vote was split 50-50, with all union members voting in his favor and all city representatives voting to deny him the increased disability payments.

Martinez told The Defender the denial fits into a pattern of decisions by New York City to punish people speaking out against or dissenting from the city’s COVID-19 vaccine policies.

She said:

“The City’s ruthless treatment of firefighter Pastrana reveals a disturbing pattern of deliberate cruelty. They mandated a vaccine, ignored severe allergic reactions, and then callously forced him into permanent disability. Now, they deny him the pension benefits he earned, pushing him to the brink.

“The city’s representatives, without a shred of empathy, voted against his rightful pension benefits, leaving him and his family in financial ruin. This is not just about one firefighter. It’s a blatant attempt to crush any dissent against the mandate. The city’s actions are not just punitive, they’re an affront to justice and humanity. “

The lawsuit alleges the board’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious,” violating the lawful existing procedures and demonstrating an abuse of discretion.

The complaint invokes Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, which would allow the court to set aside the allegedly improper decision of the board and grant Pastrana his request.

“There is absolutely no evidence to support the Board of Trustees’ denial of Accidental Disability benefits, let alone evidence from a credible source that would generate any level of conviction in a finding of no causation. All of the evidence supports an award of Accidental Disability Benefits,” the complaint says.

Pastrana tried working other jobs when he left the fire department, he said but has found he is completely unable to work.

“I am left in financial ruin on top of physically and mentally devastated,” Pastrana wrote in his affidavit to the court.

He wants the court to help him achieve a “small sliver of justice.”

Pastrana told The Defender he also wants justice for other vaccine-injured firefighters. “I know other people in the fire department who are suffering with the exact same thing,” many of whom he met through the Bravest for Choice organization.

He’s concerned, he said, because “it’s all becoming so normal.”

Watch this CHD.TV interview with Pastrana and his attorney:

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