TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A new law signed by Governor Greg Abbott will ensure that firefighters and EMTs throughout Texas can receive worker’s compensation if they get certain types of cancer due to their job.
Steve Countryman was serving as a captain for the Tyler fire department in 2016.
“I served just under 30 years with the Tyler fire department,” said Countryman, a now retired firefighter.
In 2016, he was also diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“Firefighters are exposed to a lot of things, whether it’s the heat, the smoke, the radiation,” said Countryman. “There are carcinogens that we’re around daily and its not just at the emergency scenes. Whether it’s at the fire station and the exhaust from the fire trucks or our bunker gear."
Countryman was one of 35 firefighters in Texas who filed for worker’s compensation that year.
“The studies that have been done over the last 7 years...” said Countryman. “Over 90% of the claims that were filed by firefighters for cancer were denied.”
He was one of two awarded the claim.
“There were 35 cases that were filed and 33 of those were denied."
He’s hoping a new law will change that.
The law states that firefighters and EMTs that get one of 11 different cancers, while on the job, can receive workers compensation.
The cancers are cancer that originates at the stomach, colon, rectum, skin, prostate, testis, or brain; non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; multiple myeloma; malignant melanoma; and renal cell carcinoma.
“Trying to understand why some cities choose to decline..." said Countryman. "I think once again it comes down to a money issue and they’re taking the face and the person out of the equation and it’s just about the money.”
Countryman said he appreciates that he was awarded his claim and the treatment he got.
He’s now glad that firefighters across the state will be treated the same.
“My hope is that these municipalities, and primarily the workers comp insurance carriers, that they will understand this is serious and they need to get these things approved and get these guys treatment.”
The new law passed almost unanimously in both chambers of the Texas legislature and according to the language in the bill, that means it will go into effect immediately.