San Antonio Firefighters Battle Cancer and the City of San Antonio
Posted On: May 20, 2016
KSAT NEWS12 did a story about cancer in the Fire Service on May 15, 2016. The story highlighted a veteran firefighter Eugene Hull with Georgia’s Columbus fire department that lost his arm due to cancer and was able to return to work and help his department improve their Cancer Prevention efforts by adding 2 sets of Bunker Gear for each firefighter, decontaminating gear after every exposure, implementing a ventilation systems in the fire stations, and the story concIuded with the newscaster talking about the State Presumptive Law and how Firefighters recieve Worker's Compensation benefits for Cancer. Texas is one of 34 states that have a PRESUMPTIVE LAW that presumes that if a firefighter developes cancer in the course and scope of their job it is a work related injury and thus covered under Worker's Compensation. This is not true in San Antonio. San Antonio firefighters DO NOT recieve benefits, They get a DENIAL of their cancer claims by the City of San Antonio.
San Antonio DOES NOT:
Issue every Firefighter Two sets of Firefighting gear
Provide Proper Ventilation Systems in every Fire Station
San Antonio DOES:
DENY 100% of Cancer Claims!
City Manager Sheryl Sculley has claimned that Firefighters healthcare is TOO EXPENSIVE. Studies across the country show that firefighters use far less healthcare benefits than Civilian employees. One of the reasons is that the average age of a new hire firefighter is between 19 to 33 years old compared to their civilian counterparts which can be hired as late as their 60's. Firefighter applicants must pass a rigorous fitness test and a complete physical and pyschological testing. Civilians enter the workforce at any age and are not required to pass any agility test, physical or psycological testing.
Firefighters work about 28 to 32 years which is a shorter careers than an average civilian. Due to the physical demands of the job the average firefighter retires between the ages of 50 to 57. This is about the time that a firefighter starts to use Healthcare. Civilian can be hired into their 50's or 60's and because their jobs are sedentary, they can work to age 70 or beyond, thus their careers can extend to 40+ years.
City Manager Sheryl Sculley's complaints don't play out UNLESS she does something to drastically change those facts. Prior to the LEGACY COMMITTEE ON HEALTHCARE, The City begain denying all Worker's Compensation claims at a increased rate. By DENYING Worker's Compensation benefits and forcing the Firefighters to use their personal healthcare benefits she is intentionally driving up the healthcare costs. In a three year period from 2012 to 2014, the City's Denial rate rose from 4.48% to 37.65 % with Cancer Claims coming in at 100% DENIAL RATE!
Sculley calls the firefighters benefits "RICH." At one time, all city employees had these same benefits. The Healthcare Benefits that the Firefighters have today are the same benefits that ALL CITY EMPLOYEES had in 1981. The citizens of San Antonio voted to give Collective Bargaining to Firefighters in 1976. Thru Collective Bargaining, Fire and Police have given up raises throughout the years to continue these benefits. Since the last contract expired in 2013, they have gone two years without any raises and are below the state and national wage rates and continue to fall behind other similar cities. With the 100% denial rate of cancer claims, these healthcare benefits are the only life preserver they have to combat the cancer.
Texas Worker's Compensation sets out the MINIMUM Benefits an employer must provide to employees. San Antonio is SELF INSURED and can at any time provide GREATER Benefits to employees. It is the City that can decided to provide Worker's Compensation to ALL FIREFIGHTERS diagnosed with Cancer. But by doing so, this would lower the cost of Healthcare and not support Sheryl Sculley's claim of Healthcare breaking the budget.
Firefighters diagnosed with cancer have had no choice but to use their personal health insurance. Fighting the City for This could take months but in the meantime, the firefighter must seek treatment immediately. The firefighter undergoes extensive testing including blood counts, bone marrow tests, Ultrasound, CT scans, and gene testing. Then there are numerouse drugs that are prescribed. Procedures include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, stem cell replacement, and more. All of these are expensive, none guarentee a positive outcome and all of them ravage the firefighter. The firefighter and their family are left to fight the City, fight the physical and psychology affects of cancer, haggle with the insurance company to cover treatments, endure the treatments, all while not working and earning a paycheck. All of this with the hope that the firefighter gets better. But better doesn't mean they can return to work.
The difference between a death and a LINE OF DUTY DEATH are substantial. Under the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the spouse will receive a $500,000 one-time payment. It also provides monthly benefits up to $800 for firefighter's minor children. The spouse and children are also eligible for continued health and dental insurance benefits. Under the Worker's Compensation portion, the spouse would recieve up to 75% of the firefighters salary for life. There is also a $6,000 Funeral Benefit and an Education Benefit for the children that exempts tuition and fees at institution of higher learning including housing, food, and text books.
The news report stated that extensive research by the Occupationa Health and Safety Review Commission reports that firefighters have a 20% greater risk than the entire population to develop cancer contributed to fire exposure to chemicals in the homes. San Antonio Firefighters not only have a greater risk for developing cancer from doing their jobs but Sculley has added a DEATH SENTENCE by not taking steps to prevent cancer to our San Antonio Firefighters. Scully is intentionally obstructing the prevention of cancer exposure, medical treatment of firefighters suffering with cancer, and further denying LINE OF DUTY benefits to the families of firefighters who have died of cancer.