Valley Firefighter Battling Cancer Denied Workers’ Comp

Posted: Updated:

MISSION – A Mission firefighter is battling the city’s insurer, the Texas Municipal League following a denial of his workers’ compensation claim.

Homer Salinas dedicated over 20 years to the Mission Fire Department before being diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma in October of last year.

Salinas’ wife is a nurse. He said when they heard the diagnosis they were shocked.

“I just saw her face go blank. Her face went blank and they told me. That day was one of the hardest days to understand that I had cancer. Everything just closed up,” Salinas broke into tears describing the life-changing moment.

The Texas Municipal League denied his claim by citing the International Agency on the Research of Cancer.

The research study states firefighters are only at significant risk of developing three specific types of cancer; testicular cancer, prostatic cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The Mission Firefighter's Association disagrees. President of the Mission Firefighter’s Association, Robert Lopez said first responders are exposed to cancer-causing fumes.

“Exposure to toxic smoke, exposure to chemicals that we have to deal with before, after and during fires,” said Lopez.

The IARC study includes kidney cancer cases, just not under the top three in the summary. It says "the risks of mortality from kidney cancer were increased in firefighters with at least 20 years of service."

The Mission Firefighter's Association wants the city to overturn the decision by TML to deny benefits, but the city says it can't.

Robert Hinojosa, director of risk management for the city of Mission said, “any decision that TML makes is final basically, in regards to the city interacting with them.”

The state says they can't overturn a workers' compensation claim decision, but it can dispute a claim. The city hasn’t disputed the claim.

Salinas and the Mission Firefighter’s Association said they will keep fighting, even if it's on their own.

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