STRS Denies Disability for Superintendent with Brain Damage

The Jones Law Group, LLC has filed a Complaint in Mandamus against the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS) on behalf of a former New Albany Plain Local Schools Superintendent suffering from permanent brain damage resulting from a 2011 automobile accident.  Steve Castle had dedicated his life to education as a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent and made contributions to State Teachers Retirement System for over 26 years.  He had always assumed that his disability benefits would be there if he ever needed them.  Unfortunately for Steve and educators throughout the state, this is not the case.

After his tragic accident in 2011, the STRS Board initially denied his claim for disability benefits.  Ultimately, Steve retained attorney Eric Jones of the Jones Law Group and a hearing was held before the STRS Board in February 2013. After 18 months of denials the STRS Board finally approved Steve’s disability benefits.  

In September 2013, just 7 months after the STRS Board approved Steve’s disability benefits, the STRS Board requested an update on his condition.  Dr. Kevin Anderson informed the STRS Board that Steve had made “no significant progress over the past year” and he will never be able to return to his former job as he is permanently disabled. 

Unsatisfied, the STRS Board sent Steve to Dr. Joel Steinberg for an evaluation.  Dr. Steinberg agreed that Dr. Castle had sustained a brain injury and that he swould not expect Steve to have made any improvement over the last year.  Yet,  Dr. Steinberg concluded  he could not determine whether or not Dr. Castle was disabled based on the testing performed.

In spite of the fact that numerous other physicians reported that Steve was permanently disabled due to his brain injury, the STRS Board relied upon Dr. Steinberg’s inconclusive report with conflicting statements and terminated Dr. Castle’s disability benefits.  The STRS Board found that although Steve has brain damage, memory, concentration and physical aliments, he is able to fulfill all of the obligations required of a school superintendent in Ohio based on an inconclusive report.  

“The STRS Board’s findings in this case are sad and frightening,” said Steve’s attorney, Eric Jones.  “Steve has difficulties with normal activities of daily living, that are well medically documented.  The fact that the STRS Board has determined that he can return to managing multi-million dollar budgets and be responsible for the safety and education of hundreds of students not only contrary to law but is downright  shocking!”

“My wife, mother-in-law and the most influential people in my life have been Ohio educators and they all deserve to be treated fairly by the STRS Board.  It saddens me that the STRS Board it continuing to fight this matter in court, however, I am confident we will ultimately prevail,” Jones said.

Eric Jones can be reached at (614) 545-9998 or by email at ejones@joneslg.com.

Members of the Retirement Board may be reached at (888) 227-7877  or by email at ContactUs@strsoh.org or by mail at 275 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215-3771.

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