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August 31, 1970
Honorable Nathan G. Richardson
Port Angeles Savings & Loan Building
Port Angeles, Washington 98362
Cite as: AGLO 1970 No. 116
We are in receipt of your letter dated August 26, 1970, requesting our opinion on a question pertaining to disability benefits under the laws governing the new Washington law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system.
In your letter you have cited RCW 41.26.120, which covers disability retirement allowances under this new retirement system, and have indicated your understanding of this section as meaning:
". . . that a man covered by this act could be injured while off duty and if he is unable to continue his service, he is still entitled to a disability retirement."
The portion of RCW 41.26.120 which is pertinent to this proposition reads as follows:
"Any member, regardless of his age or years of service may be retired by the disability board subject to approval by the retirement board as hereinafter provided, for any disability which has been continuous since his discontinuance of active service and which renders him unable to continue his service, whether incurred in the line of duty or not. . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)
Unquestionably, the underscored portion of this statute means precisely what you have indicated; namely, that a member of the law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system who becomes disabled by reason of illness and injury to the extent that he is unable to continue in service is eligible for a disability retirement allowance (subject to the procedural requirements set forth in RCW 41.26.120 and 41.26.130) without regard to whether his injury or illness was incurred while on or off duty.
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
Similarly, under RCW 41.26.150, relating to the payment of a member or retired former member's ". . . necessary hospital, care and nursing expenses, . . ." no statutory distinction is drawn between the expenses of those persons who were disabled while on duty and those persons whose disability was not incurred in line of duty. However, you should note and recognize that under this latter statute, the respective county and city disability boards are vested with a considerable degree of discretion in determining what hospital and medical services should be made available to a sick or disabled member of the retirement system who has applied for medical benefits under the statute. See, AGO 1970 No. 16 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, Grant County on June 29, 1970]], copy enclosed.
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Assistant Attorney General