Detroit’s firefighters are there day and night to protect us during an emergency. These heroes often risk their health and safety in the line of duty. Many of these health hazards happen not during an accident at a fire but after years of exposure to toxic chemicals. As the president of the Michigan Professional Firefighter’s Union recently said, 84 percent of firefighters are diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives.
But under the state’s current workers’ compensation rules, only a fraction of Michigan’s firefighters are eligible for compensation after being diagnosed with job-related cancer.
Holes in firefighter workers’ compensation eligibility
According to state Rep. Jeff Yaroch, there are 29,150 firefighters in Michigan. But only the 7,600 full-time firefighters can currently claim workers’ comp for cancer. That leaves out all the part-time and volunteer firefighters. Also, three cancers unique to women (ovarian, breast and cervical) are excluded from the list of occupational cancers for firefighters.
A bill introduced by Rep. Yaroch would expand workers’ comp eligibility to include part-time and volunteer firefighters and add benefits for the three cancers mentioned above when the patient can show a connection between their cancer and their work as a firefighter. The state House has already passed the bill, and the Senate was considering it as of early April. The issue is personal to Yaroch, who is both a former firefighter and a cancer survivor.
Obtaining workers’ compensation for an illness can be challenging. Displaying the connection between your work and your illness is often more complicated than for a worker who has suffered a major physical injury like an amputated hand. However, working with a workers’ comp attorney can help you make the best possible case.