Illnesses Presumed to be Work Related for Firefighter Disability Retirement
“Disability Retirement” can be claimed by a firefighter because of any permanent injury or illness that keeps them from working – regardless of the cause of the medical condition or disease. But, “Industrial Disability Retirement” specifically refers to the inability to perform work duties because of an injury that occurred at the workplace, or a medical condition or illness that is job-related.
Why the Cause of Disability Matters for Firefighters
This is an important distinction, since industrial disability retirement has certain advantages over regular disability retirement. For starters, unlike regular disability retirement, there is NO years of service requirement required to be eligible for industrial disability retirement.
Equally important, the benefit rates are different for disability retirement and industrial disability retirement. For example, the maximum percentage benefit allowable for CalPERS disability retirement is 33.333 percent, – while safety members who retire on or after January 1, 2013, with industrial disability can receive a higher benefit equal to 50 percent of their highest consecutive 12-month or 36-month salary average.
Additionally, industrial disability retirement benefits are generally exempt from being taxed in California, while certain other disability benefits may be taxable.
Illnesses Presumed to be Work Related for Firefighter
Firefighting puts employees in the line of danger and disease at work to a greater degree than perhaps any other profession. In order to compensate firefighters for these huge risks inherent in the line of their courageous duties, the law provides some assistance.
Certain medical conditions are specifically established in the Labor Code as being presumed to be work related. In other words, if a firefighter has one of these conditions, they do NOT have to “prove” that the illness was caused by work. Instead, the law “presumes” that any of the the included conditions were the result of firefighters’ employment.
The illnesses that are presumed to be work-related for firefighters are:
- Cancer (§3212.1)
- Bio-Chemical Exposures (§3212.85 & §3211.5)
- Blood-borne pathogens (§3212.8)
- Heart (§32120)
- Hernia (§32120)
- MRSA (§3212.8)
- Meningitis (§3212.9)
- Pneumonia (§32120)
- Tuberculosis (§3212.6)
The compensation, which is awarded for each of these illnesses, shall include full hospitalization, surgical, medical treatment, and disability indemnity as well as death benefits for the firefighters’ survivors.
In addition to the presumed illnesses, there is service-connected disability retirement for any firefighter who is covered under the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937, who becomes permanently incapacitated as a result of a blood-borne infectious disease that can be demonstrated to be due to the exposure to blood or blood products as a result of performance of job duties.
Firefighters and Known Carcinogens
Known carcinogens – as defined by the International Agency for Research on Cancer – are referred to in Labor Code §3212.1. Exposure to an IARC “known carcinogen” during firefighter duties supports a finding of industrial (service-connected) disability retirement.
While diesel exhaust is not on the list of known carcinogens, many of the particulates that make up diesel exhaust are on the list. Additionally, Cal/OSHA regulates the amount of diesel exhaust exposure. So, firefighters who develop cancer as a result of diesel exposure should also qualify for industrial (service-connected) disability retirement
Firefighter Disability Retirement Attorneys
The disability lawyers at Cantrell Green are among the few attorneys who understand and specialize in firefighter disability benefits. We support and appreciate the incredibly brave firefighters who risk their lives for our community – especially in the wake of the recent Woolsey, Hill and Camp fires.
If you are a disabled firefighter, call our experienced disability retirement attorneys today. We would be happy to help you determine your eligibility for disability retirement – and we will fight tirelessly to ensure our firefighters receive the benefits of which they are so deserving.
Firefighter Disability Retirement Attorney Free Consultation: 562-622-4800