PHOENIX — The City of Phoenix Pension Board has determined an officer who was shot multiple times in an ambush attack while trying to save an infant does not have catastrophic injuries. Instead, they determined her injuries to be accidental and approved an accidental disability claim.
Officer Trisha Eskridge served the Phoenix Police Department for 22 years when she was injured in February of 2022 along with eight other officers. She was shot in the arm, hip and foot. She has not been able to return to work since.
A year after the shooting, Eskridge lost a third of her pay as the City of Phoenix's policy is to stop supplementing workers' compensation one year after an injury. That's when she decided to apply for disability retirement.
An independent medical examination conducted by a doctor hired by the city noted Eskridge can no longer lift more than ten pounds with her left arm, rotate her forearm, or walk long distances. The doctor deemed her unable to return to work as a police officer.
The single mother of four has been waiting since February of this year to get her disability approved.
There is more than one category of disability. In Eskridge's case, the board could grant either an "accidental" disability or "catastrophic" and there is a big difference between the two.
"Accidental" would pay half of Eskridge's salary untaxed. "Catastrophic" would pay 90 percent, and after five years, she would get another evaluation.
The key difference between the two is a "catastrophic" disability means your injuries prevent you from "engaging in any gainful employment." An "accidental" disability means you're healthy enough to find a new job.
The board chair said he's only seen two "catastrophic" claims in the past decade.
During Tuesday's board hearing, Eskridge's sister Gina Wilder told the board the injuries are catastrophic.
“I want you to consider if you were in the same position, would you be able to take your 22 years and just jettison it and start over at a new position at 50 with four children to support because you were injured while doing your job that you had dedicated your life to," Wilder said.
Board member Mark Schweikert, a Phoenix PD lieutenant, made a motion to approve Eskridge's "catastrophic" disability.
But the remaining members voted against it, citing the independent medical examination where the doctor wrote, "the employee could engage in some form of gainful employment in the civilian sector. Most likely in the sedentary capacity."
Instead, the board approved an "accidental" disability for Eskridge.
“Shame on you guys. Just shame on you. I hope you give some thought to what you’ve done to our family," Wilder said.
A City of Phoenix spokesperson said Eskridge has the option to ask for a new hearing.
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