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CT comptroller seeks accountability over disability benefits

Sean Scanlon, CT State Comptroller
Molly Ingram
Sean Scanlon, CT State Comptroller

Connecticut Comptroller Sean Scanlon is calling for more oversight over the state’s disability pension system.

Scanlon’s push for reforms came after a report exposed flaws within the pension system, according to Hearst Connecticut Media. The report highlighted the case of Paul Cicarella — a now senator who became eligible for disability after being injured during a stint as a corrections officer. While receiving benefits, Cicarella started multiple businesses and held employment as a high school wrestling coach, which should have made him ineligible for disability.

Though officials did eventually revoke his payments, he was put back on disability after becoming a senator.

“This is, in my opinion, a long overdue discussion, and one that has been prompted last week by an article that in many ways encapsulates some of the challenges that we face in administering this system,” Scanlon said in response to the report.

Scanlon wants Connecticut lawmakers to grant his office the ability to revoke benefits to those receiving benefits who fail to complete a yearly survey that the state uses to check if individuals still qualify for payments. He said this will help hold people who may be using the system to their advantage accountable.

He also said these reforms would give him powers similar to other state comptroller offices nationwide. But unless lawmakers act, Scanlon won’t have such power.

“Right now, our hands are tied, in large part because of a memorandum of understanding that basically says once somebody has been investigated one time, we cannot investigate them a second time without new evidence,” he said. “Obviously, it’s hard to have evidence unless you investigate people.”

While some of the changes Scanlon proposes will require collective bargaining, a spokeswoman for the unions that would be involved told the CT Mirror that they were open to discussion about the changes.

“That said, we have long pursued win/win solutions that would improve the process for all concerned,” said Drew Stoner, with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition. “We hope to continue this work with the Lamont administration to explore those ideas.”

Sky Crabtree is a news intern at WSHU for the spring of 2024.