Texas State Association of Fire Fighters Challenging Worker's Compensation Process
MISSION - While a Mission firefighter is again entangled in a newly-filed lawsuit, the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters is fighting to change the process for having a state workers' compensation claim accepted.
Homer Salinas is fighting a disease he believes is the result of a hazard that comes with his job as a Mission firefighter.
He filed for workers' compensation in 2017.
It's what many others do, but often the majority of those claims are denied.
Salinas believes his kidney cancer was a direct result of fighting fires for years and he's not the only one.
Mike Silva, a Mission Fire Department Lieutenant and a legislative agent for the TSAFF, says, “In the City of Mission, we've had six in the past 12 years, and Homer is the sixth one to get cancer."
Salinas filed for a workers' compensation claim, but some never did.
Silva says the ability to file for workers' compensation is relatively new.
"The reason why several firefighters who have passed were not able to file a workers comp illness, which was also known as the presumption law, was because there was no law that allows a firefighter to file such a claim being presumed to have cancer on the job," says Silva.
The presumption law was created in 2005 and since then, many have filed with the Division of Workers' Compensation in Texas.
Silva shared state data that shows a high initial denial rate for 159 first responders who requested workers compensation due to cancer in the last nine years.
From 2010 to 2018, the initial denial has not dipped below 70-percent.
In 2017, all 24 cancer claims were initially denied.
Silva says it's enough to discourage claims from ever being filed in the first place. "Some of the firefighters who have gotten cancer, don't want to file the worker's comp red tape system that we have because it prolongs treatment," says Silva. "So, they go through their private insurance."
Silva has studied the numbers and says claims stand a better chance on appeal.
He's trying to influence change at the state level.
"We're trying to work out a compromise and a bill that would allow firefighters to no longer be denied by the Texas Municipal League," he said.
There's no set timeline about when a bill might be worked out.
For firefighters fighting against time, a solution can't come soon enough.
Homer Salinas tells CHANNEL FIVE NEWS the cancer can sometimes show up after the firefighters' retirement.
That's why he's also hoping the state reconsiders how long firefighters can make a claim after they leave the job.
For more information, watch the video above.
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