The Tragedy For Retired Ohio First Responders

Editor’s Note: The email below was sent to the Ohio Police and Fire Pension board  by the wife of a now retired and disabled Cleveland Firefighter. It is a heartbreaking story but one that is now a reality for thousands of retired police and firefighters in the State of Ohio.  For close to 40 years, first responders in Ohio have been hired and retired with the promise of healthcare at a certain cost.  In recent months, the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Board decided to forgo the promises of the past and give retirees health insurance that will cost them thousands more a month.  This could have been stopped by judges, by politicians and many more but it wasn’t.  We are working on giving you more on this issue but for now, we are providing just one story as it is told by the wife of a retired firefighter.  It is this story and the many more that we have heard that will drive us to make sure that every single person responsible for this tragedy will be held accountable within the public eye. 

Dear Mr. Gallagher, President of the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund,

I am writing this because my husband Kevin G. Gunn is not able to. He has Alzheimer’s. He served the city of Cleveland for 35 years as a Cleveland Firefighter. He served as Sergeant of Arms, Trustee, Secretary, Vice President and President of Local 93. He spent his career helping people, not only the citizens of Cleveland but also his fellow Firefighters. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s one year after retirement. There are two very important things a retired person needs; their pension and good health care which we thought we had both.

I have rheumatoid arthritis; I can barely walk or stand for any amount of time. I have to do everything for Kevin now. All responsibilities are on me concerning his finances, health and, daily care. He can no longer do any of this. He depends on me to take care of everything and I was up to the challenge. Now I don’t know how long I will be able to care for him.

This health care transition, crisis has destroyed me.  I have been sick since the first week in November due to the chaos that you and your board have inflicted upon us. Never ever in my life, through child birth, surgeries, cancer, Kevin’s illness and my illness have I suffered such a gut wrenching, stressful, sense of helplessness trying to navigate the Ohio Police and Fire health care process. You made it almost impossible, from the lack of qualified help on the AON side as well as the e-health side. The Ohio Police and Fire Pension was no help during this time. We were forced to deal with AON even though you had knowledge that they were not doing the job that you hired them for. The health care plans that were offered to the under 65 firefighters are the worst. We are paying for insurance that we cannot use until we reach our deductible of 8,000 dollars. We cannot travel, not that me and Kevin can go far or often because of our illnesses but now we have no choice but to stay home or risk our life and our home because we do not have coverage outside of Cuyahoga County. Both of our expensive drugs are not covered. Kevin’s is $500.00 per month and mine is $4,165.00 per month. We will go without thanks to terrible coverage afford us. Without my drug I am not sure I will be able to continue to care for Kevin. This is truly not fair to a man who gave his life daily protecting others. Kevin dedicated his life to the Cleveland Fire Department and the citizens in Cleveland.

So let us move on, today January 2, 2019, I tried to access the HRA account to request our stipend. It will not let me access the account. We purchased two qualifying Medical Mutual Plans for a total of $1,536.67 dollars. The stipend amount is $1,074.00 that I cannot access. You would think after the fiasco that we all went through trying to purchase these plans that you would have told AON not to screw up this process, but again it’s obvious you did not. We need this money to pay for this month’s premium. Do I need an attorney, should I send this letter to a reporter? Tell me what I should do Mr. Gallagher! How do I get the monies promised to us? Was it all Lies?

You’re a business man, not a firefighter or a policeman. You never faced the daily danger associated with these jobs, or the health risks to their bodies. It only makes sense that they need good health care coverage in their retirement.

I don’t believe that this can be fixed at this late date. We are forced to live with a decision that you and the board put upon us. I know and so do you that you made a horrible decision on the health care for the under 65 retired members.

A great leader would stand up and admit he made a big mistake and try to fix this, and at the very least apologize profusely for his bad judgement in this matter. A great leader would not tell the press that for the most part; this went smoothly, knowing that it is not true. We are one example of many how very wrong the whole procedure went.


Diana Gunn

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