Judge denies disability benefits in drug case

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A state judge has upheld a hearing examiner’s decision to deny disability benefits to a former Glacier County undersheriff who argued post-traumatic stress disorder from his 15 years as a deputy and coroner led to the drug abuse that cost him his job.

District Judge Mike Menahan rejected Jeff Fauque’s claim in a Sept. 23 ruling, the Independent Record (http://bit.ly/1dXJZRi) reported Thursday.

Fauque was charged in October 2010 with entering a house to steal prescription narcotics. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges and surrendered his law enforcement certifications.

He applied for disability benefits under the Sheriff’s Retirement System.

The Montana Public Employees Retirement Board twice denied his claim for disability benefits and a hearing examiner supported the denial in November 2012. Fauque went to court in February, saying the finding was “erroneous.”

His attorney, Ben Snipes, argued Fauque witnessed numerous horrifying events, including death and dismemberment, while doing his job and that three medical witnesses told the board that PTSD was the cause of the drug dependency and other issues.

The hearing examiner said records show Fauque used his position to take prescription drugs from homes starting in 2007 or 2008, including taking medications from people who had recently died. Fauque was investigated and suspended in 2008.

Then-Sheriff Wayne Dusterhoff said when Fauque returned to work in 2008 he “had no concern Fauque was unable to perform his duties,” and that he did not avoid calls or miss work.

“According to Sheriff Dusterhoff, Fauque first expressed concern about his job when he was arrested after the October 2010 incident,” Menahan wrote.

Fauque underwent drug treatment and Snipes has said he is working as a chemical dependency counselor.

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Information from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com

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