Many cities in the state of Texas, USA, are denying workers’ compensation to firefighters with cancer, according to union leaders and state lawmakers.
Over the past six years, more than 90 per cent of the 117 workers’ compensation claims filed by Texas firefighters with cancer have been denied, according to the Texas Department of Insurance.
“The sky-high denial rate of cancer is the first problem,” said Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association. “Firefighters with denied claims often have fewer treatment options and face the risk of financial ruin because of lost income.” All seven of the association’s members who filed workers’ compensation claims since 2016 have been denied, the union said.
Firefighters have said that cities use a memo by the Texas Intergovernmental Risk Pool to dodge the presumptive cancer law. The memo only presumes three types of cancer are caused by firefighting: testicular, prostate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Union leaders have said that the memo and the risk pool ignore substantial research linking firefighting to other forms of cancer. Firefighters are much more likely to win benefits on appeal, with nearly 65 per cent of cases winning workers’ compensation appeals over the past six years. But less than one-fifth of firefighters disputed their denied claims.
Firefighters risk being sued by the cities that employ them, and often it’s too daunting a task to battle in court while battling cancer.
Legislators based the Texas law not on the “conclusive presumption” that the cancers are caused by the job, which cannot be rebutted, but on “rebuttable presumption,” which can be. In the latter case, employers or their insurers might point to smoking or family history of cancer, for example, in an attempt to deny workers’ compensation.
- IAFF webpage on presumptive legislation for firefighters’ occupational diseases.