10-1-2018; Trying to Make Sense of Nonsense, Part Last; John Karis on PTSD Denial for Firefighter; Shawn Biery Webinar on IL WC PPP's and more

Synopsis: Trying to Make Sense of Nonsense; Part Last.


Editor’s comment: Following up on last week’s KCB&A Update article on how crazy the coming statewide election is, someone told me IL State and local gov’t workers are hard-working family people and deserve more respect. I have trouble respecting folks that have to know they are bankrupting our State and local governments when they retire to become wildly wealthy, similar to the gov’t workers causing financial havoc in the Country of Greece and Puerto Rico.


Another reader sent me a simple outline of what is causing the State of Illinois to move inexorably to much, much higher taxes while still inevitably approaching all-out bankruptcy and financial catastrophe. In my view, our State still has billions in billions in unpaid bills from vendors—that means the State is “bankrupt” even though it hasn’t and can’t technically file for what we all understand “bankruptcy” to be. A business that isn’t paying its bills is arguably “bankrupt” by my definition of the term. Please also note State of Illinois gov’t debt is well into the hundreds of billions and may get to a trillion in debt because there is no stopping simple math.


I characterize Illinois State and local government pensions as “fake” because there is no hope, none, that any participant contributes anything like the amount they recover from the fake gov’t pension plans if they live five years after retirement. The system is designed to make innocent folks like my readers think there is something like a Fort Knox of pension money that is being used to pay these fake pensions—in fact, the fake pension money is coming from current tax dollars and more and more demands on current tax dollars will be made. I always remember how folks became infuriated with gov’t welfare because it was some citizens getting something for nothing. I assure you fake gov’t pensions mean thousands of retired gov’t workers are getting something, actually billions, for nothing.


If you take a look at this safe link:




You will note there are literally thousands of former State and local workers who are legally being paid billions from our current tax dollars in retirement when they contributed only a fraction of their eventual payout into Illinois fake government pension programs. That math continues to rise and rise as more folks hasten into gov’t retirement to lavish in guaranteed annual fake pension increases. When working for State gov’t, you aren’t guaranteed raises—when you retire, you are. When working for State gov’t, you pay state taxes. When you retire, you don’t.


For one example of a fake gov’t pension, please take a look at Henry S. Bangser who was the Superintendent of New Trier Schools back in the day. You will note his entire fake pension contribution to become vested was about $336K. His current fake gov’t pension payout to date is $3,069,328 or almost ten times his contributions. His projected lifetime payout is just under $10M or about thirty times his contributions. I strongly urge my readers to note former superintendent and now California resident Bangser isn’t breaking any law—he is simply and legally taking full advantage of his advantage in collecting our tax dollars, as he may do for thirty-forty more years. If he lives long enough, simple math will dictate his annual fake pension payout will inevitably double and quadruple to over a million a year.


Why Aren’t the Election Candidates Talking About This Hilarious Situation?


As I have told my readers repeatedly, these pension participants and the next generation of such participants is a giant voting bloc that will organize and seek to vote out anyone who threatens their impossible-to-fund fake gov’t pensions.


What Does This Mean to Illinois Workers’ Comp?


My main concern is when the higher income tax promised by the leading gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker hits, businesses and jobs will leave the State, never to return. Treasure Island Food Store by me in Wilmette just closed all their stores. Most of the north suburbs of Chicago are seeing jobs and small to mid-sized businesses shuttering. When and if JB Pritzker gets a constitutional amendment to allow him to impose a graduated and regressive income tax, more jobs and businesses are sure to leave. Real estate taxes are hurting the sales of mid- to big homes and commercial buildings.


My main concern with JB Pritzker becoming Governor is the lack of anyone blocking IL State Democrats who can and will do whatever they can to make this an even more one-party state, like the City of Chicago has been basically forever. One-party gov’ts aren’t good in a democracy.


That said, I can’t say much about Gov. Rauner’s current election bid. It seems like he made every mistake, error and goof anyone could possibly make in what might be the most difficult job in State government. He did a solid job bringing in moderate and very professional hearing officers at the IWCC. I am forecasting JB Pritzker isn’t going to do nearly the same level of hiring.


Noting Illinois jobs are fleeing our nutty State, I will be interested to watch to the end of the year to see if the IL WC system has 40,000 new filings in 2018. While claims continue to drop, the IWCC keeps adding more and more staff. Watch this space for news as it comes in.


I appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.


Synopsis: IL Appellate Court Finds No link to Between Firefighter’s Claim of PTSD and His Duties. Research and analysis by John Karis, J.D.

Editor’s comment: The First District Appellate Court recently affirmed the decision of a Pension Board denying line-of-duty disability to a firefighter claiming his PTSD was caused by his work duties. We feel this ruling and article is required reading for anyone defending a PTSD claim in this State.

In the case of Covello v. Village of Schaumburg Firefighters' Pension Fund, Steven Covello (Covello) was a firefighter/paramedic in the Village’s fire department. When Covello was hired, he passed a physical and psychological exam required by the Village. Before beginning his career as a firefighter with the Village, Covello never received psychological or psychiatric treatment for any condition


Beginning in October 2007 and throughout the remainder of Covello’s career as a firefighter, Dr. Thomas Dennison, a psychiatrist, treated Covello for anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hoarding, stuttering, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Dr. Dennison treated Covello’s IBS, GERD, and stuttering conditions with medicine and also prescribed an antidepressant. Covello would generally see Dr. Dennison anywhere from once a month to once every three months depending on his level of stress and anxiety.


During the first five years of treatment, Covello did not discuss any issues involving work with Dr. Dennison, and he did not express any work-related anxiety. In fact, during a treatment session in 2009, Covello mentioned that his fellow firefighters were his major support system. During these sessions, Covello instead talked about various personal issues, including his relationship with his son, his broken engagement, his mother’s death, as well as his hoarding tendencies, which grew worse over the years. Because of his numerous issues, Dr. Dennison had over the years recommended Covello see a counselor, but Covello failed to follow this advice.


Over his 18-year career as a firefighter, Covello responded to numerous calls involving gruesome injuries, and some of the victims that he attempted to save died. But on November 1, 2008, Covello responded to an “officer down” call that came in at around 11 p.m. involving Officer Frank Russo of the Village’s police department. Because both Covello and Officer Russo worked for the Village, they got to know each other when they responded to the same calls, but they did not socialize outside of work. Covello transported Officer Russo in the ambulance to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.


Later on, Covello had a work related injury involving his abdomen and was eventually cleared for surgery and had his hernia repaired on October 30, 2013. On October 25, 2013, days before Covello’s hernia surgery, he filed an application for line-of-duty disability pension benefits under the Firefighters’ Pension Fund of the Illinois Pension Code. He alternatively applied for nonduty disability pension benefits. On his disability application, Covello listed November 1, 2008, the date he responded to the call involving Officer Russo as his date of injury. Covello listed PTSD as the reason for his disability. The Village was allowed to intervene in the proceedings based on its status as Covello’s employer and a fiduciary charged with the proper expenditure of pension funds.

The Pension Board held Covello’s disability hearing on November 20, 2015, and January 22, 2016. During the hearing, Covello recounted several on-duty calls involving motorcycle and automobile accidents that he found traumatic. In one accident, a woman in an automobile was crushed by a semi-truck, and he had to put her scalp back together. Covello blamed himself and felt responsible when a patient did not survive. Covello also discussed the call involving Officer Russo.

On April 20, 2016, the Pension Board issued its written decision and awarded Covello a nonduty disability pension of 50% of his salary. The Pension Board explained that it did not find a link between Covello’s disability and an act of duty but did find that he was permanently disabled from service as a result of conditions that were not caused by any act of duty.

On May 19, 2016, Covello filed a complaint for administrative review under the Illinois Administrative Review Law, requesting the circuit court find that he was entitled to line-of-duty disability pension benefits and to grant his motion that was not expressly ruled on by the Board to modify the pension’s effective date from December 5, 2014, to February 13, 2015. The circuit court affirmed the Pension Board’s finding that Covello was not entitled to a line-of-duty disability pension because he failed to demonstrate that an on duty act contributed to his permanent disability.

Covello appealed the final decision denying line-of-duty disability pension benefits entered by the Pension Fund. On review, Covello claimed the Pension Board applied the wrong standard in weighing the evidence because the standard is not whether an act of duty was the sole or primary cause of his disability but whether an act of duty was a contributing cause of his disability.

The Appellate Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision noting although Covello during the pension hearing recounted various calls that were indisputably traumatic, he identified the incident involving Officer Russo as the cause of his PTSD on his disability application. Importantly, Covello did not identify any other incidents on his application, either individually or cumulatively, as contributing to his PTSD. The court further noted even if they were to consider the numerous traumatic calls that Covello undoubtedly responded to throughout his career, there was no evidence they triggered PTSD or aggravated Covello’s preexisting mental health issues. Specifically, Covello (1) never mentioned any anxiety or stress triggered by an onduty call to either his supervisors or Dr. Dennison, (2) always completed his shifts, (3) never missed a shift following a call, and (4) continued to receive favorable performance evaluations.

It is well known that firefighters and other first responders are repeatedly exposed to stressful and gruesome events. However this appellate court decision shows us this is not enough to qualify for a duty disability. There needs to be a specific event or a series of events that triggers the disability and evidence that shows that was truly the cause. 

This article was researched and written by John Karis, JD. You can reach John 24/7/365 for questions about general liability, employment law and workers’ compensation at jkaris@keefe-law.com.


Featured Event:



IL Workers' Compensation

Preferred Provider Program


Tuesday | October 30th, 2018

11:00am - 12:30pm




Join the Illinois Chamber and Shawn R. Biery from Keefe, Campbell, Biery & Associates for a webinar on October 30, 2018 to learn about Preferred Provider Programs as they relate to Illinois Workers’ Compensation.


Shawn will summarize the language of the Illinois WC Act and the path of PPPs in Illinois from legislation to implementation and current updates. Learn the potential impact on Workers’ Compensation if you join a PPP and potential strategies to increase your ability to manage workers’ compensation claims and navigate the medical issues which create much of the stress and drama involved with workers’ compensation.


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