Trooper in Chesimard Case Loses Fight to Get Disability 28 Years Later
A retired state trooper who says he developed PTSD years after a colleague was killed in a shootout involving the woman who is now New Jersey's most wanted fugitive has lost his battle to get disability benefits 28 years later.
Retired trooper Gary L. McWhorter said after his retirement in 1988 he was diagnosed with delayed manifestation post traumatic stress disorder. He said the condition was the result of being shot on duty in 1971, and having two of his former colleagues shot in the 1972 shootout involving Joanne Chesimard on the New Jersey Turnpike in East Brunswick. One of the troopers, Werner Foerster, died from his wounds.
The two troopers had relieved McWhorter from his shift. McWhorter was called back on duty and helped apprehend one of the suspects.
Chesimard later escaped from a state prison and has been living in Cuba ever since.
McWhorter served for just over 20 years. State pension records show he retired with a salary of $40,344. He receives about $30,000 a year through his pension and monthly cost of living allowance.
McWhorter's initial application to change his retirement to an accidental disability pension, which would provide him with health benefits, was denied because it came so long after his retirement was approved.
While pension laws do allow for a change in status within the first five years of retirement, McWhorter argued that applications can be changed "if it can be factually demonstrated" that the disability was due to an accident and that the filing was not done within five years because of a delayed manifestation.
While he claimed the delayed development of PTSD was the reason he did not apply for disability within the first five years, the application was denied.
Thursday’s appellate decision says that the "plain language" of the law requires that a State Police Retirement System member request a change to an application for retirement before the pension becomes "due and payable," and that a member applying for a disability retirement must be "a member in service" at the time of the application.
"McWhorter was not a 'member in service' at the time he requested an accidental disability retirement," and hasn't been for 28 years, the decision says.