The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Donald E. Barnes Jr. has collected roughly $500,000 in tax-free disability payments over the past fifteen years, after sustaining an injury during a "slow jog" at the Chicago Police training academy.
He had been in training for a mere ten days when the injury occurred, according to the report, and never actually served a day as a police officer.
The report relates that then-30-year-old Barnes had accomplished five blocks of the three-mile jog when he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with heat stroke and placed in intensive care due to kidney and liver failure.
The Sun-Times continues:
After Barnes used up his allotted year of sick leave, the city’s police pension board placed him on duty disability, citing lingering effects from heat stroke.
He is also entitled to free health insurance for his wife and their two kids, who were born after he went on disability leave.
Barnes, who uses a brace on his left foot and walks with a “slight limp,” according to pension records, collects his monthly disability checks even while working a second job.
But that's not the most shocking aspect of the story.
The Sun-Times explains that Barnes stands to double his "earnings" from the city:
Despite not making it through two weeks at the academy, Barnes stands to collect a total of at least $1.2 million from the city’s police pension fund.
He can keep collecting his annual disability payment — which now stands at $46,343 and which will increase as the salary for an entry-level patrolman goes up — until he reaches mandatory retirement at age 63.
Then, he can retire with a full police pension — based on all of his years as a disabled officer. [Emphasis added]
Barnes is currently working as a regional manager for Standard Parking, and reportedly even had a profile of himself on LinkedIn.
In a sworn statement Barnes filed with the pension board in 1998, he wrote: “Our class was instructed, as part of a physical training exercise, to leave the academy for a running exercise. During this exercise, I suffered heat stroke, causing kidney and liver failure. This resulted in rhabdomyolysis, causing me to be disabled.”
A pension fund doctor reported in 2010 that Barnes had indeed undergone surgery and outpatient rehabilitation after the initial injury, but has had no other treatment or follow-up, the Chicago Sun-Times relates.
A blogger for the Chicago Daily Observer re-posted part of the report with the comment: "Just a reminder [for] when Chicago asks for a federal bailout as they approach bankruptcy."