Ex-Orlando cop with PTSD after Pulse granted disability pension

By Jeff Allen, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 01, 2017, 8:15 AM EDT

Originally posted on: Thursday, July 13, 2017, 6:48 p.m 

During an emotional hearing Thursday at Orlando City Hall, a pension board granted permanent disability benefits to a former Orlando Police officer diagnosed with PTSD after the Pulse shooting.

Gerry Realin had waged an ongoing battle with the city of Orlando over his retirement benefits.

Pulse owner Barbara Poma and a retired New York Police Department officer who survived the Sept. 11 tragedy testified on Realin's behalf at Thursday's public hearing. In urging the city pension board to grant the pension to Realin, Poma said this is "not business as usual."

“How many lives are you going to let our shooter take, or affect, when you have a chance to help someone be saved from what happened here?” said Poma.

The mother of one of the 49 people killed at Pulse also spoke to the pension board.

“I just can’t fathom what Officer Realin went through, saw and experienced on that terrible day,” said Mayra Alvear, the mother of Amanda Alvear.

At one point, Realin's wife, Jessica, emotionally walked out of the hearing while asking, "Can I have a moment, please?"

Realin himself was not present at the hearing; a doctor advised him not to go.

An advocate for Orlando Police argued that Realin was "angry" at the department and had "other motivations" in seeking a pension. The city had previously said that it was committed to helping Realin but met its limit to reimburse. It also said it made other jobs available to Realin, which he did not take.

An attorney for the city questioned whether Realin would suffer from the PTSD for the rest of his life. The attorney also argued there were inconsistencies in what Realin told his doctors.

Soon after the June 2016 mass shooting, Realin was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and entered therapy. A year later, he had exhausted his sick and vacation time.

Realin and his family said they were hindered by Florida law, which does not grant worker's compensation benefits to first responders suffering solely from PTSD.

“I don’t think that someone who serves our community, who lives their life on the line, should have to worry about losing everything," Jessica Realin said days before the hearing. Democratic Rep. Darren Soto had written a letter to the pension board on Realin's behalf. That letter can be viewed here.

Jessica Realin said the unanimous decision to grant pension was like a huge weight had been lifted off the family’s shoulders.

“This has been a very hard time for my family, and listening to the evidence today was even harder to have my husband questioned,” said Realin.

Beginning in August, Realin will begin getting 80 percent of what his salary was. The pension board can eventually review Realin’s disability status and re-evaluate the pension.