Brockport High School grad and former police officer fighting for medical insurance following career ending injury

By on December 25, 2017

Eddie Richardson says he has “no clue” what he will be able to do to provide for his family and obtain health insurance following an injury in 2016 which ended his law enforcement career.

“I don’t know if I will be able to work,” Richardson, age 40, said, following his latest spinal surgery on December 4.  “I’m pretty much bed-ridden now.  I get winded walking to the kitchen.”

Eddie Richardson with his wife, Amanda. They have three children: sons Jonah, age 20 and Caleb, age 19, and daughter, Jordan, age 13. Provided photo

Eddie Richardson with his wife, Amanda. They have three children: sons Jonah, age 20 and Caleb, age 19, and daughter, Jordan, age 13. Provided photo

Richardson, a 1995 graduate of Brockport High School, was injured in 2016 while working as a sheriff’s deputy in Lexington County, South Carolina. A burglary suspect he was pursuing hit Richardson with a stolen car. Richardson suffered extensive injuries including nerve damage, a destroyed spinal disc and torn cartilage in his hip.  Pain has become a part of his life, making it difficult for him to walk and even sit for long periods.

Because he was permanently disabled, Richardson was forced to retire, but was informed just days before retirement, that he would not be provided with health insurance as a benefit.

“South Carolina is a right to work state,” Richardson explains, “there are no unions, no oversight.  It makes it more difficult with employee matters.”

Richardson was denied health insurance benefits at retirement, as his seven years of service as a deputy and his young age were not sufficient under county rules to obtain low cost retiree health coverage, reports say.  Agency rules also say Richardson did not serve long enough to qualify  for insurance through the state Public Employee Benefit Authority that oversees benefits for State Highway Patrol troopers as well as some local police and deputies in South Carolina.

Richardson has asked local leaders to consider paying for his health coverage, but citing the cost of providing insurance to Richardson and other Lexington County retirees in similar situations, the Lexington County Council came to the consensus in October that Richardson would not be provided with health insurance.

Richardson had requested health insurance to cover him until age 65, when Medicare would begin coverage.  According to published reports, Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon had requested council members to provide health insurance to Richardson as if he was still working as a deputy.

Workers compensation has been covering his medical costs, he explains, but without health insurance, there is no overall coverage for his family.  If his child breaks a leg, for example, there is nothing to cover the cost. Richardson says the cost of insuring himself would be as much as $2,000 a month with high deductibles and many exclusions.

Additionally, his disability and retirement income of $36,000 is too high to receive federal/state assistance which would provide medical insurance for free or at a low cost.

Richardson says he was always told while working in law enforcement that he and his family would be taken care of in the case that anything happened to him while on the job.

He says law enforcement officers put their lives on the line everyday and should be guaranteed benefits including health coverage in the case of career ending injuries sustained while on duty.  “It’s the price of doing business,” Richardson says.

His wife, Amanda, left her job as a dental office manager to help care for him following his accident and is hoping to find a new job that will provide insurance.  The couple have three children.

Eddie Richardson. Provided photo.

Eddie Richardson. Provided photo.

Richardson has undergone three surgeries on his spine and one surgery on his hip. He says he continues to search for medical coverage for himself and his family, but feels it may require legal challenges.  Social Security is a possibility, but Richardson says it may take months to obtain and he may not qualify.

Attorneys have told him a court battle could last 2 to 5 years.

He is currently working with lawmakers in South Carolina and local Congressional representatives to see what can be done for himself and others who find themselves in similar situations.  “There’s a lot going on right now behind the scenes,” he says, although he worries whether or not his situation will improve.  “I don’t see changes in the future,” he says.

Richardson has become involved with Officer Down, We Survived, a national group which provides support for police officers injured in the line of duty. Additionally, there is also a Go Fund Me page for those who would like to help out financially:  https://www.gofundme.com/3mjnh7-caring-is-sharing .

Locally, Daniel Varrenti, Brockport Police Chief and past president of the Monroe  County Chiefs of Police Association, says the issue affecting Richardson is not a police department issue, but a state issue.  “Unfortunately, some of the southern states do not afford police officers the same work related benefits that are afforded them in New York State and other northern and western states in our county,” the Chief says.

He explains that in New York State, police officers would be covered with such an injury under the Worker’s Compensation law and the NYS General Municipal Law Section 207-c.

Chief Varrenti says New York law states that, “if an officer is hurt performing his duties and responsibilities as a police officer, he will have medical expenses covered along with potential retirement benefits if he can’t return to work.  Police unions in Brockport, Monroe County and/or New  York State would basically be superseded by NYS Worker’s Compensation and/or NYS General Municipal Law,” the Chief said.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login