Firefighters in North Carolina and elsewhere put their lives on the line every time they respond to a call. Perennially regarded as among the most dangerous professions, firefighting carries substantial risks for those brave enough to do it, and the risks can extend beyond the obvious hazard of battling blazes. Firefighters run the risk of developing cancers and other illnesses because of working in close proximity to a host of toxic materials. Now, firefighters in North Carolina can begin receiving cancer benefits as part of their workers’ compensation claims.
Benefits to begin Jan. 2022
North Carolina has become one of several states that offer presumptive cancer benefits for both professional firefighters and volunteers alike. Legislators recently passed a budget for the state, which includes $17 million in funding for cancer benefits. The bill was named the Fire Fighters Cancer Act of 2021.
A long time in coming, the act provides for the following provisions:
- An initial sum of $25,000 upon an initial cancer diagnosis
- An additional sum of up to $25,000 for any subsequent cancer diagnosis, not to exceed $50,000
- Reimbursements of out-of-pocket medical costs for up to $12,000 a year
- Full disability benefits for those unable to perform their duties, which will offer 75% of their income for 36 months
In order to become eligible to receive the benefits, the firefighter must have worked for at least five continuous years, and the individual must have received a cancer diagnosis on Jan. 1, 2022 or later. The firefighter must also not already be receiving workers’ compensation benefits related to a cancer diagnosis. If a firefighter or any other worker who suffered a debilitating injury or illness on the job, he or she should consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to gain a full understanding of his or her rights and options to receive benefits.