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March 29, 1971
Honorable Paul Klasen
Ephrata, Washington 98823 Cite as: AGLO 1971 No. 54 (not official)
Reference is made to your letter dated March 26, 1971, requesting our opinion upon a question pertaining to the authority of a county or city disability board under the provisions of RCW 41.26.150 (1). Specifically, you have asked whether the authority granted to a disability board under this section to ". . . designate the hospital and medical service available to such sick or disabled member . . ." of the Washington law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system authorizes the disability board to limit or to determine the nature of medical services to be provided for a sick or disabled law enforcement officer or fire fighter by his employer.
You have indicated that your present inquiry is an outgrowth of our opinion to you of June 29, 1970, AGO 1970 No. 16 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, Grant County on June 29, 1970]], copy enclosed. In that opinion we concluded, in so far as is presently material, that:
"A county disability board is required to designate the hospital and medical services which are to be available to a sick or disabled law enforcement officer or fire fighter under its jurisdiction; and it is authorized to determine his physical condition for the purpose of ascertaining the nature and extent of his sickness or disability."
Since issuing this opinion, we have had occasion to comment upon it, and further clarify the responsibilities of a local disability board under RCW 41.26.150 (1), in three further opinions. They are, respectively, an opinion dated August 31, 1970, to the Clallam county prosecuting attorney; and opinion dated September 8, 1970, to State Representative C. E. "Chuck" Evans; and an opinion dated October 6, 1970, to the prosecuting attorney of Clark county, copies of all of which are enclosed.
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
The principal conclusion expressed in the first of these three 1970 opinions is that RCW 41.26.150 is equally applicable to both duty and nonduty disability situations. The point made in the second of these opinions is that the question of whether a particular disability was ". . . caused or brought on by dissipation or abuse, . . ." is a question to be determined in each case on the basis of the particular facts thereof. As for the significance of the last of these three opinions, we particularly call your attention to the specific questions posed and answered on pages 3 and 4 thereof.
Obviously, however, any determinations made by a disability board in connection with the matter of designating the hospital and medical services which are to be available to a sick or disabled law enforcement officer or fire fighter under its jurisdiction must be made on the basis of competent factual evidence relating to the particular situation at hand, and thus it would not be permissible for a disability board to establish arbitrary limitations with respect to the maximum amounts to be expended by an employer for his employees' (or retired former employees) medical care, etc., in every case on any sort of an "across-the‑board" basis.
We hope that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you in advising your county disability board in connection with its functions and responsibilities under the subject statute. To this we would only add that legislation is currently pending here in Olympia which is designed to clarify the areas to be covered in so far as the payment of medical costs for law enforcement officers and fire fighters under RCW 41.26.150,supra, is concerned. See, House Bill No. 1052, copy of which is enclosed herewith for your use and information.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General