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Connecticut firefighters will have expanded benefits in October

Governor Ned Lamont speaks to firefighters, legislators, and advocates.
Molly Ingram
Governor Ned Lamont speaks to firefighters, legislators and advocates.

Connecticut firefighters with cancer will have expanded benefits beginning October 1.

The new law will give firefighters a rebuttable presumption. That means if they get cancer, doctors and insurance companies will assume it was caused by dangerous working conditions like chemical exposure.

They will then be able to apply for wage replacement benefits through the states firefighters cancer relief account.

Connecticut was the second to last state in the country without this law. Gov. Ned Lamont said it’s about time one passed.

“You've been our partner running into these burning buildings, we’re your partners going forward to help you get through this and come back,” Lamont said.

International Association of Fire Fighters District 3 Vice President Jay Colbert said the new law will also give benefits to the families of firefighters who die due to job-related illnesses.

“If we contract cancer, and we ought to succumb to it, we need to know that our children and our wives and our significant others left behind will be taken care of,” Colbert said.

Seventy-five percent of firefighter line of duty deaths in the country are due to occupational cancer.

To be eligible for the benefit, firefighters must be diagnosed with cancer of the brain, skeletal, digestive, endocrine, respiratory, lymphatic, reproductive, urinary, or hematological systems.

They must not have used cigarettes for 15 years before the diagnosis, and have worked for at least 5 years.

They also must have had a physical exam before becoming a firefighter that shows they did not already have cancer.

The legislation passed last session as part of the budget.

The Insurance Association of Connecticut tells WSHU that contrary to the Governor's office, the benefit has nothing to with workers compensation.

“While this wage replacement claims process will be administered through the CT Workers’ Compensation Commission and benefits will be similar to workers’ compensation benefits, this program is separate, distinct and not a part of the workers’ compensation insurance system,” said Association President Eric George said.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.