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MIssion Battles to Provide Firefighter with Cancer Worker's

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MISSION – The city of Mission is no longer taking a backseat in a legal battle to get a city firefighter worker’s compensation benefits.

This week, the Mission city council approved to allow the city to seek outside legal counsel.

The Mission city manager, mayor and attorney took to Austin last week. They met with representatives from their insurer, the Texas Municipal League.

The meeting comes after TML denied workers compensation benefits to Homer Salinas, a firefighter who was diagnosed with kidney cancer last year.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS reported about Salinas’ battle with the city’s insurer late last month.

“You know, I tried to keep my head up, but these last couple of months have been very tough physically, mentally, financially,” said Salinas.

State law protects firefighters who develop cancer after being exposed to smoke, fumes and toxic material.

Texas Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa spoke about the meeting, “It’s pretty clear that we passed legislation last session, clarifying that there is a presumption that the kidney cancer was caused by toxic fumes.”

What that means is the law protects firefighters who develop cancer after serving many years.

“What we’re supporting is the law that is put in place and we stand behind the law and we stand behind our firefighter,” stated Mission City Manager Martin Garza Jr.

TML claims Salinas’ kidney cancer doesn’t qualify him for benefits. The insurer cites the International Agency on the Research of Cancer in their decision. The study states firefighters are only at significant risk of developing three specific types of cancer.

Kidney cancer isn’t included.

In the city’s meeting with TML was to overturn the decision, the city manager says it didn’t go as they had hoped. The plan now is to sue TML. A move the insurer says is unconventional.

“We don’t care whether it’s unconventional or not, the fact is that we’re here for the employee and we want to make sure those benefits are overturned,” said Garza.

It’s a lengthy process that doesn’t guarantee Salinas worker’s compensation benefits in the end.

“I’m on a road to recovery, but I want to be an example to my brothers and sisters, that this law, the presumption law, that we don’t get bypassed,” said Salinas.

In the meantime, the city will look at policy with human resources. They’re looking to see if there is anything administratively they can move forward with in getting the firefighter benefits.

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