Boston Firefighter Albert Arroyo 
(July 2008)

There is often close affiliation between the official David Manning Liar of the Month designation and the unofficial “boob of the month” designation. Take, for example, the saga of Boston firefighter Albert Arroyo. On March 21, he reported suffering a back injury so severe that his doctor declared that Arroyo should be granted an accidental disability retirement as "totally and permanently disabled."

Then on May 3, only a bit more than a month after his catastrophic and crippling injury, after being out of work for six weeks and collecting his full salary tax-free, Arroyo finished eighth in a men's bodybuilding competition, the 2008 Pro Natural American Championships. Fire Commissioner Roderick J. Fraser Jr. learned of Arroyo's miraculous achievement and his ongoing success as a competitive professional bodybuilder, and urged the Boston Retirement Board to deny Arroyo’s application for disability benefits. The Fire Department then shifted Arroyo, 46, from injured leave to regular sick leave, which is taxable, after its chief medical officer determined that his injury, if there was one, was not work-related.

Arroyo certainly is a paradox, and a very muscular one. According to the Boston Globe, he first claimed a back injury in 1997, and was also on injured leave briefly four other times between 2000 and 2006. In 2003, he reported injuring his back while lifting a box. In 2006, he said the injury recurred while he was walking up a flight of stairs.

But those injuries didn’t stop him from heavy weight-lifting since at least 2003. Arroyo has been regularly lifting weights at Body Engineers, a gym in Dorchester, Mass., with such excellent results that he began winning trophies in bodybuilding competitions. He became so Arnold-like that in 2007, Arroyo finished second to a German bodybuilder in the International Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation's Amateur World Championships in New York City.

Arroyo told Fraser that his bodybuilding helps “ease his back pain,” to which Fraser reasonably replied, "If he can lift weights, work out constantly, and enter bodybuilding contests, then he can inspect a building!" Arroyo is a member of the Fire Prevention Division, with an annual salary is $68,133.

An ongoing Boston Globe investigation indicated that Arroyo has lots of company in the liar category, if not many in his class as a boob. For example, 102 Boston firefighters had been granted enhanced disability pensions because their career-ending injuries occurred while they were temporarily filling in for superiors and being paid at a higher pay grade. The additional cost to the city from paying those pensions at the higher grades will be about $25 million. The Globe reported that scores of “injured” firefighters lingered on injured leave status for several years while collecting 100 percent of their salaries, tax-free. Once the Boston Retirement Board approves accidental disability retirements, recipients receive 72 percent of their salary, also tax-free, for the rest of their lives.

But none of the other questionably disabled fire fighters engaged in highly-publicized contests that showed them to have the kind of physique one can only acquire through the regular lifting of iron weights, while claiming simultaneously that lifting “a box” had rendered them unable to work. Thanks to Arroyo’s recklessness and the Globe’s reporting, the truth squad is descending on Boston’s malingering firemen.

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