Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control has revealed that firefighters are nine percent more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, and 14 percent more likely to die from cancer than the general public. Statistics like these reinforce the understanding that being a firefighter is a dangerous proposition.
However, firefighters, like many other people, have a limited number of sick days available to them. With a cold or minor injury, this generally is not a problem. However, a diagnosis of cancer very often means a long period of time that the individual is unable to work due to treatment. Because firefighters have a higher risk of cancer than other members of the public, the possibility that they have to miss time related to a cancer diagnosis increases greatly.
“A cancer diagnosis is devastating for the individual and their loved ones; but with firefighters, devastation can also come in the form of exhaustion of paid sick days and a loss of medical coverage if the individual is unable to return to work,” said Larry Nussbaum, a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney with the Nussbaum Law Group, PC.
Normally, an individual injured in the line of work will rely on workers’ compensation insurance to cover their cost of care and lost time. However, because it can be difficult to trace an individual’s cancer diagnosis directly back to a work-related incident or event, showing the connection between the job and the cancer is a challenge.
Massachusetts is one of 33 states to have passed presumptive service-connection for certain cancers developed by firefighters. However, the cancer must be totally disabling or fatal, meaning there is very little in between. This means that individuals that are diagnosed, treated, and expected to enter remission are likely unable to avail themselves of these protections.
Fortunately, Massachusetts has stepped in to fill the breach by creating a paid-leave system for firefighters who have been diagnosed with work-related cancer. The system will ensure that individuals diagnosed will continue to be paid during their period of leave provided that the cancer diagnosed is covered by the law and there is no evidence indicating an origination other than the individual’s line of work.
The following cancers are considered work-related under the new law:
Cancer affecting the skin, central nervous, lymphatic, digestive, hematological, urinary, skeletal, oral or prostate systems.
A broad series of categories, which is in line with the goal of the legislation, to provide paid leave benefits to individuals dealing with cancer. If you or a loved one is a firefighter that has been diagnosed with cancer, consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to understand the extent of your rights and to apply for payment if you have a cancer diagnosis outlined above.