State Denies Benefits for Cop's Widow
Updated: Wednesday, 28 Dec 2011, 6:40 AM EST
Published : Tuesday, 27 Dec 2011, 7:29 PM EST
(FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) - The widow of an honored Boston police officer is fighting the state for accidental death benefits 13 years after her husband died.
Maura Shaw believes her husband, Kenneth Shaw, who processed grisly crime scenes as part of the Boston Police Department's identification unit, was essentially killed in the line of duty, but the state has denied her application over and over again because she can't show exactly how he contracted hepatitis C decades ago.
"It's like a slap in the face. He loved his job. He loved doing what he did," Maura Shaw told FOX Undercover.
Maura Shaw never thought she'd still be fighting for accidental death benefits more than a decade after her husband died. The wait has taken its toll.
"I ended up losing the house. I ended up pawning my diamond ring that he gave me. It's been hard," she said.
Officer Shaw's work took him to many grisly crime scenes over the years, including the dumpster where Swedish nanny Karina Holmer was found in 1996. Shaw had to go inside the dumpster to search for fingerprints. When he started, he and his colleagues didn't even wear gloves.
At some point he contracted hepatitis C, a viral disease spread through blood. Shaw became so sick, he needed a liver transplant. He lost his battle with the disease in 1998 after his body rejected the new liver.
Shaw's doctor from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center believed he contracted the illness on the job and wrote, "his only risk factors were exposure to blood as a policeman at work. In particular, there was no history of intravenous drug use or blood product transfusion."
Maura Shaw applied to the Boston Retirement Board for accidental death benefits. The board had another doctor review the case, who agreed with the first doctor, writing, "it is my opinion that the death of Officer Shaw was the consequence of a hazard undergone in the performance of his duties as a Boston police officer."
The Boston Retirement Board approved the application for benefits in 2001, but the state would not sign off on it.
The Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission wrote, "There is not substantial evidence to support the conclusion that Mr. Shaw's Hepatitis C was contracted via his employment."
Officer Shaw's four children are also frustrated with the state's decision.
Joseph Connarton, executive director of the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission, or PERAC, said his hands were tied.
Connarton said the commission has approved 88 percent of all disability applications that have come across their desks; however, he can not grant Maura Shaw’s because she can not pinpoint the specific incident where her husband contracted hepatitis C.
Considering no one tested the bodies Shaw worked with for hepatitis C, the commission’s demand is impossible to fulfill.
Maura may not have much luck at PERAC, where Connarton says he will review the case but can't change the burden of having to prove where and when Shaw contracted the disease.
He says Maura Shaw's only remedy may be to ask a lawmaker to file a bill on her behalf so that she can collect the accidental death benefits, something she now plans on doing.
The Boston Police Department, after hearing of Shaw's plight from FOX Undercover, released a statement saying, "The Boston Police Department is saddened to hear about the struggles Mrs. Shaw has faced in the wake of losing her husband. Officer Kenneth Shaw is fondly remembered as a hard worker and valuable member of our department. We fully support Mrs. Shaw in her efforts to secure the benefits to which we believe she is entitled."
Maura Shaw is still living in the home she and her husband bought. A neighbor purchased the house at an auction, and agreed to rent it back to her.
Read more: http://www.myfoxboston.com/dpp/news/undercover/state-denies-benefits-for-cops-widow-20111227#ixzz1hpkU6i2G