NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — There’s a new bill on the table at the state Capitol that would help firefighters who are battling cancer. It would provide them expanded access to workers compensation benefits for certain diseases, including cancer, contracted on the job.
According to the CDC, firefighters have a 9% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer than the general United States population.
Currently, firefighters can collect workman’s comp, but they have to prove they were exposed to carcinogens on the job. Jeffrey Tomchik with the Uniformed Professional Firefighters Association of Connecticut said in many cases, that’s hard to do.
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Under the new bill, there is rebuttable presumption that the diagnosis of cancer of a uniformed member of a paid municipal or volunteer fire department arose out of course of employment as a result of exposure particular to the duties performed as a firefighter. Such presumption applies to any condition of cancer affecting the brain, skin, skeletal system, digestive system, endocrine system, respiratory system, lymphatic system, reproductive system, urinary system or hematological system that results in the death or temporary or permanent total or partial disability of such firefighter.
There are some exceptions to the compensation. To view the bill, click here.
“Every single firefighter in the state, whether it’s career or volunteer, has a strong passion with what they do in serving the community,” Tomchik said. “It should fall on the community to give a little back and protect them from some of these carcinogens they come into contact with.”
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, a organization that represents towns and cities all over the state, has pushed back against this bill in the past. They said workers comp is going to cost too much.
“With drastic increases in worker’s compensation, that will obviously get passed along to the property taxpayer and then you will just see escalating property taxes,” said Mike Muszynski, the Chief Strategy Officer with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.
When the bill was first introduced in 2016, CCM worked to create the Firefighters Cancer Relief Program that awards wage replacement benefits to firefighters with cancer. Muszynski said the organization hopes to expand that fund so they can provide more financial assistance.