Globe Editorial

Disability fraud: Arroyo’s awful pain

August 10, 2011

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The case of Albert Arroyo might be comical if it weren’t such a violation of public trust. Arroyo, a former Boston firefighter, was charged with mail fraud after filing for a $65,000 tax-free disability pension after suffering a supposedly career-ending injury in 2008. Though he claimed to be in too much pain to stay on the job, that didn’t keep him from playing baseball or competing in body-building competitions. There he was on camera, flexing away.

In his trial this week, two doctors cited inconsistencies in Arroyo’s account of his pain, including a claim that pressure on his ample shoulders caused pain in his lower back. (There is no reason, a doctor said, that test would yield such a result.) It’s possible that Arroyo never expected to have his claims subjected to adverse scrutiny; there’s a history of dubious disability filings within the Boston Fire Department. Still, Arroyo’s setbacks provide some unexpected grounds for optimism. First, they suggest that a higher level of independent scrutiny can root out some disability abuses. Second, they show that abusing the system often leaves a paper trail that prosecutors can follow.