Wichita Falls, TX – Wichita Falls Police Officer Tim Putney and his family don't know if their income will be cut while surgery for his on-duty injury continues to be pushed back.
Officer Putney suffered a spinal injury while trying to handcuff a suspect on July 11, 2017, the Times Record News reported.
He’s needed surgery from the damage done when he fell against a concrete curb, but instead of moving quickly to get the officer back to good health, the system has been working against him most of the way, according to the Times Record News.
Officer Putney has had to wait for approval to have surgery to fix his back.
He returned to work on light duty August 17, 2017, but was forced to stop due to his injury.
His wife Chelsea told the Times Record News that his injury led to him falling at work, and that he had to stop working light duty in April on orders from his doctor.
So far, he’s been off work almost three months total for his on-duty injury.
Officer Putney and his wife said that he need spinal surgery to get back on his feet, and that rehabilitation after that could take up to a year. But whether he gets that treatment hinges on the outcome of a mediation hearing schedule for May 30.
A doctor had recommended spinal surgery in March, but Edwards Risk Management, a contractor for the city, requested a second opinion.
So the Texas Department of Insurance directed Officer Putney to see Steven A. Doores, a plastic surgeon, about his back injury.
The Putneys filmed their visit with Dr. Doores on the advice of their attorney, and then filed a complaint with the Texas Medical Board when he denied that Officer Putney needed surgery, the Times Record News reported.
Dr. Doores has now later withdrawn his claim.
“The report was submitted prematurely and cannot be amended,” Dr. Steven A. Doores wrote in a May 14 letter to the officer. “Therefore, I am withdrawing the report. I will no longer be involved in this case.”
The doctor recommended that another physician conduct an examination, and apologized “for any inconvenience” in the letter, the Times Record News reported.
The May 30 hearing will be an opportunity to get things turned around.
“I feel like this was just kind of a little victory for us,” Chelsea told the Times Record News. “We’re going to keep fighting this. We’re not going away. He should get this treatment.”
In the meantime, not only is Officer Putney’s health in limbo, but also his income. And it’s not clear how long he will continue to be paid his salary while he waits for the state worker’s comp officials to get their acts together.
State law requires a municipality to provide a leave of absence for a firefighter or police officer hurt on the job – with full pay – that corresponds with the nature of the illness or injury, and. The leave shall continue at least a year if necessary, the Times Record News reported.
But the “one year period” of coverage refers to whatever injury leave the first responder has taken, not the 12 months that follow the actual injury.
Without knowing whether workers’ compensation will cover the additional surgery Officer Putney requires, there’s no way for the couple to know how much leave will be required, no way to know if their income will be cut, and no ability to plan for their future.