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Lawmakers look to expand first responder workers' comp coverage

Just a few weeks ago, comedian Jon Stewart was in the news because he made a passionate plea to Congress to fully cover health care costs for 9/11 first responders. A significant number of them have died or are dying from cancers and illnesses they most likely developed because of long-term exposure to hazardous materials at the 9/11 cleanup sites.

In the last few years, both federal and state lawmakers have debated about what types of health conditions worker’s compensation will cover for first responders.


Cancer coverage

For example, Pennsylvania already has established that firefighters with four years on the job are eligible for worker’s compensation for developing certain types of cancer. Firefighters qualify if they were cancer-free when they first started the job and the fire-fighting cancers they develop were caused by their firefighting-related duties. One of cancers included is the extremely deadly mesothelioma.

Many federal studies have indicated that firefighters are more likely than average citizens to develop cancer because of the carcinogenic fumes they inhale on the job.

Expanding mental health coverage

Another topic lawmakers in Pennsylvania debated in the spring 2019 session was expanding workers’ compensation coverage for from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Again, research has shown that law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs have an occupational hazard in developing PTSD because of the trauma they have seen and stress they've experienced.

Florida and Minnesota already have laws in place covering PTSD worker’s comp claims, and earlier this year in Oregon, a 911 operator received workers’ compensation for PTSD after responding to a call of a shooting, where she dispatched police offers to respond and could hear the shooting in the background.

If you or a loved one has an injury or illness possibly related to first responder on-the-job hazards, you should consult an experienced worker’s compensation attorney. 

No one questions the dangers first responders face every day. That’s why despite concerns about costs, more government leaders are expanding workers’ compensation coverage for first responders as awareness about this issue grows.

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