DENVER (AP) - A Senate committee approved a bill
Monday to allow police and firefighters to keep more
of their disability pay after the wife of a paralyzed
Florence police officer said her husband may have to
go on welfare.
Misty Bethel, wife of Cpl. Toby Bethel, said
officers should not lose workers' compensation
benefits because they collect a pension.
"He put his life on the line for his community. God
forbid we have to go on welfare because he was just
doing his job," she said at a news conference as
Bethel sat in a wheelchair, wiping away tears.
Bethel was paralyzed from the waist down in the
Sept. 28 shooting that left Fremont County deputy
Jason Schwartz dead. Bethel has undergone numerous
surgeries and was hospitalized again Monday for
Sen. Doug Linkhart, sponsor of Senate Bill 173,
said Bethel was making $12 an hour when he was shot
and is now trying to live on half that amount.
Under present law, Bethel is eligible for his
pension but the value of his pension benefit will
offset all or part of the permanent benefit he would
get under workers' compensation.
The bill would allow police and firefighters to
receive their one-time disability payment as well as
they pensions they earned. It was written to go into
effect after Bethel applies for benefits under a
pension or disability plan so he can be covered.
"We need to recognize that we are asking police and
firefighters to deal with the increased risks of their
duty to protect and to further recognize that it makes
no sense to demand from them a refund of their
physical impairment benefit," Linkhart said.
Marshall Fogel, Bethel's attorney and a former
prosecutor, said too many officers and firefighters
suffer financially when they are injured on the
"We go to these ceremonies where they receive
medals and plaques and care and love, but what we
don't see is what these people go through, men and
women, after all the fanfare is over with. They can't
make it," Fogel said.