Injured on the job, and getting hurt financially. A growing number of San Jose police officers say they have to deal with collection agencies for unpaid medical bills.
Those officers – six of them – say the hospital visits are for work-related injuries, and they have to deal with plummeting credit scores as a result. Several officers say they have had to go to San Jose City Hall repeatedly to clear their names.
All the bills from collections agencies are angering an already beaten down police force.
“They put on the uniform knowing they might have to fight a bad guy that day,” Officer Robert Dillon said.
It happened to Dillon.
“He came up from behind and attacked me,” Dillon said. “During the fight, he tried to take my gun.”
It happened to Sgt. Raul Martinez, too.
“I leg-whipped him, and he fell down,” Martinez said.
Both were injured in their fights. Dillon shattered four of his teeth and tore ligaments on one knee.
Martinez also suffered knee and shin injuries.
“We kinda put ourselves out there for the citizens of San Jose, and do it wholeheartedly,” Dillon said.
But then the bills arrived. And, after the bills, came letters from collections agencies warning the officers to pay their debts.
“I went for a refinance and the mortgage lender said I was denied because a collections agency wrote up that it affected my credit score,” Martinez said.
“I also got phone calls from people telling me if I didn’t pay the bills it was going to affect my credit,” Dillon said.
Both officers said they made several trips to the human resources office, but the letters kept coming.
“When you’re dealing with morale at SJPD, this is just a kick in the gut,” said Gregg Adam, attorney for the San Jose police officers’ union.
So the police union filed a grievance against the city of San Jose last week.
“They’re supposed to pay the medical bills. They always have,” Adam said. “We’ve got lots of fights with the city right now. This is one fight we didn’t think we had.”
But San Jose city spokesman David Vossbrink said the problem doesn’t appear to be in his HR department.
“My understanding is this is an issue with the provider and communication with the provider,” Vossbrink said. “Our staff is pretty much on top of this. We’ve got a very good workers comp administration here.”
The officers shouldn’t be billed at all, Vossbrink said, “period.”
Officer Dillon’s bill was finally resolved after a year.
Sgt. Martinez is still waiting after 11 months. And he still has his poor credit score to worry about.
One of the providers, Regional Medical Center, told NBC Bay Area, in California, doctors are not employed by hospitals, so workers-comp employees have to take up their issues with individual doctors.