Credible studies have repeatedly concluded that firefighters have a significantly higher chance of developing certain cancers. Even though fire fighters start out as one of the healthiest workforces in the nation, they develop cancer at a higher rate and at a younger age than the general public. At least thirty-seven states have expanded access to workers' compensation or other disability-related benefits for firefighters by statutorily creating a disability presumption for firefighters who contract certain types of cancer while performing his or her firefighting duties. In states with these laws, when a firefighter applies for workers' compensation or other benefits related to their cancer, the firefighter is presumed to be eligible for benefits unless the employer proves that the firefighter's cancer was not caused by his or her firefighting duties. In 2019, the Tennessee General Assembly unanimously passed a cancer presumption law for firefighters that covers colon cancer, skin cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. While firefighters are grateful for the passage of that law, there is a need for expansion to cover additional cancers that firefighters are contracting at a higher rate and younger age than the public directly associated with firefighting. The following cancers are linked directly to firefighting by two or more credible scientific studies: bladder, brain, esophagus, kidney, lung, prostate, rectal, and stomach.
Would you support expanding the cancer coverage for professional firefighters in Tennessee to include the cancers listed above?
Tennessee, along with other states, has recognized that careers in firefighting, emergency medical service (EMS), and law enforcement have adverse effects on the behavioral and mental health of first responders. Studies have shown that one in five firefighters suffer from occupational Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during their career and that firefighters with PTSD are six times more likely to attempt suicide. Firefighters, EMS personnel, and law enforcement are faced with horrific situations on an almost daily basis responding to emergency scenes.
The cumulative effects of working on these traumatic calls can have a devastating mental effect on these first responders. For some first responders, it can be one particular incident that triggers problems and for others it is the accumulation of years of traumatic calls that finally overwhelms them. Either way, PTSD is a manageable disease given the early intervention by professionals trained to help. Currently in Tennessee, a first responder can only claim PTSD as an "occupational injury" if it is associated with a physical injury to the first responder or if it can be pinpointed to one specific incident. The state does not recognize the cumulative effects of emergency response related to PTSD as an occupational injury.
Would you support legislation to recognize cumulative PTSD for firefighters, EMS personnel, and law enforcement through the state workers compensation plan and any local municipality "on the job injury" benefit plan?