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With no light duty available, Chicago firefighter went on disability, then got — and eventually retired from — another government job

Daniel Cozzi disabled Chicago firefighter went work for Metropolitan Pier ExpeditiAuthority where he worked for 18 years while also getting

Daniel Cozzi, a disabled Chicago firefighter, went to work for the Metropolitan Pier and Expedition Authority, where he worked for 18 years while also getting disability pay from the city's fire pension fund.

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Updated: October 18, 2012 6:04AM

Daniel Cozzi has been on disability leave from the Chicago Fire Department for so long — nearly 22 years — that he’s landed another government job in that time and then retired from it.

Now 56, Cozzi retired last summer as assistant director of fire safety for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, where he worked for 18 years while also getting disability pay from the city’s fire pension fund.

McPier paid Cozzi $78,051 a year and now provides him with an annual pension of $21,828.

That’s on top of the disability pay he still gets from the city pension fund for firefighters — payments that totaled $38,431 last year.

He has collected more than $300,000 in disability payments since 2003. The pension fund couldn’t provide figures from before then.

He’ll keep getting disability pay until he’s 63, the mandatory retirement age for Chicago firefighters.

Cozzi has been on disability leave since November 1990 — a year after he injured an arm and shoulder when he fell 22 feet while battling an extra-alarm fire in an abandoned apartment building on the West Side. Cozzi, then 33, had been with the department for 10 years at the time.

“I had taken the brunt of the fall on my right arm and my right shoulder,” he wrote in his application for disability benefits. “The air tank jammed my back and made it very hard to breathe. My complete body was buried up to my neck with fallen debris, bricks, heavy timbers, the roof and hot pieces of wood.”

He didn’t break any bones but suffered a loss of movement in his right arm, records show. He was last examined in December 2004, with a pension-fund doctor concluding his disability is “permanent” and “prevents him from returning to firefighting/paramedic duties.”

Cozzi couldn’t be reached for comment.

His wife, Maureen, said the fire department didn’t have any limited-duty jobs available for her husband when he got hurt, so he had to “reinvent himself” to support his family.

He started working for McPier in 1993, conducting fire inspections of trade-show exhibits. He worked his way up to assistant director of fire safety before he left under an early-retirement program in July 2011. In addition to his pension, the authority paid Cozzi $20,901 for his unused vacation days.

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