Disabled Firefighter Fit Enough For Ironman Triathlon, But Continues To Collect Duty Disability For Life

The Huffington Post First Posted: 09/07/11 02:25 PM ET Updated: 11/07/11 05:12 AM ET

The severity of a Wisconsin firefighter's injury is raising a few eyebrows after he qualified to receive tax-free duty disability for life.

Aaron Marjala, 28, has run several marathons and an Ironman triathlon since applying for disability for an injury obtained while on duty at the firehouse, according to a story first reported by WITI-TV, FOX 6. But he can't return to work.

The injury in question: damage to his ulnar nerve, or in laymen's terms, his funny bone.

Marjala reportedly hit his elbow in the same place twice -- once on a kitchen counter and again on a ladder. Marjala had surgery for the injuries, but after not being cleared to return to full duty after a year, he applied for disability, after the North Shore fire department gave him this ultimatum:

"You can apply for disability. You can find another job."

Marjala told FOX 6 that he wrote the department a letter, offering to help out around the station, but the North Shore Fire Department declined.

As seen in the video, Marjala said he can't raise a ladder and has difficulty tying rope, but that he'd trade positions with any firefighter for the opportunity to go to work.

Taxpayers aren't too thrilled about the decision, and some are questioning whether Marjala's case should qualify since, technically, Marjala wasn't on the fire scene when the injuries occurred.

This isn't the first case to raise questions about a firefighter's eligibility to receive disability pension, however.

A Boston firefighter found himself in hot water after competing in a bodybuilding contest while on disability leave for a back injury. Albert Arroyo was fired and charged with fraud. However, he was acquitted of the charges this August.

In 2010 New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the government should be more strict on awarding duty disability, saying there should be a clear connection from the injury to the job.

The New York Post highlighted Bloomberg's concerns:

"A lot of you read stories in the newspaper about somebody who is a professional boxer or who runs a triathlon and they are out on a disability pension," the mayor said.

"A lot of those things -- I don't know about those two in particular -- come out of these presumption bills, which sounds like they're perfectly reasonable. But the bottom line is we cannot afford to automatically assume that anybody who is sick was made sick by their government service."

For more details on Marjala's story, watch the full report from FOX 6: