Retired doctor earns highest public pension in Illinois history - New York News

Retired doctor earns highest public pension in Illinois history

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

As the pension crisis in Illinois moves even closer to the tipping point, a milestone of sorts has been crossed without notice -- until now.

A retired doctor with big-time credentials will get a public pension of more than a half million dollars this year; the first time that's ever happened in Illinois.

Since retiring from medicine, Dr. Winnie has become something of a target for critics of Illinois' failing pension system. It's a role he believes is entirely unfair and he isn't apologizing for his hefty retirement check.

Dr. Alon P. Winnie says he got into medicine to help people's lives, not pad his pension.

"I didn't decide what I was going to get," Dr. Winnie says. "I didn't even know it until the year I retired."

But the 81-year-old retired anesthesiologist has found himself in the crosshairs of the public pension debate as Illinois' top pension recipient.

Analyst Bill Zettler, who just published a book called "Illinois Pension Scam," says Dr. Winnie is an example of what's wrong with Illinois.

Dr. Winnie draws two public pensions. In 2013, he'll receive more than $330,312 from his Cook County pension and $182,000 from the state's university pension system. That's a total of $512,964.

"He's the first $500,000 a year pension in Illinois history," Zettler says. "Let's be real here. The average anesthesiologist in America working in the private sector makes $348,000 a year. So he's making 150% more than his peers in the private sector right now."

"They should be looking at the accomplishments of the people who are now pensioners before they criticize them for what they're receiving," Dr. Winnie says.

And when it comes to accomplishments, few can top Dr. Winnie. For decades, he trained hundreds of anesthesiologists with the University of Illinois Medical Center, wrote medical papers and textbooks and created groundbreaking techniques that reduced patient risk.

He also headed Cook County hospital's department of anesthesiology, assisting in thousands of surgeries, all of it while in a wheelchair after contracting polio in his 20's.

"It's a wonderful way to work, earn your living," the doctor says. "Taking care of people who are needy, who need medical care."

Winnie says people who are upset about his half million dollar pension should focus their anger instead on state lawmakers who failed to fund the pensions for decades.

"They haven't funded it and now they're stuck with their pants down," he adds. "So are the pensioners supposed to take the brunt of what they worked very hard for to make up for the screw-up of the legislature? It's ass backwards."

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