Fire fighters in Colorado who develop breast cancer are now covered under the Colorado Firefighter Heart and Cancer Benefits Trust.
The decision by the Trust’s board of directors to add breast cancer to the list of heart and cancer ailments covered came after several months of determined lobbying spearheaded by fire fighter and cancer survivor Tracy Post, with support from the Colorado Professional Fire Fighters (CPFF) and the International.
Post, a member of Westminster, CO Local 2889, developed breast cancer in 2019. While Colorado has had a cancer presumption law since 2007, employers have often bottled up workers’ compensation claims in the courts, forcing fire fighters with cancer to endure grueling legal maneuvers while also trying to survive their diagnoses.
Post contacted the Colorado Firefighters Heart and Cancer Benefits Trust, created by the state’s fire agencies to help offset the financial burdens fire fighters and their families face in the wake of a potentially deadly heart disease or cancer diagnosis. The Trust was stablished in 2017 when Governor John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 17-214 allowing fire departments to sidestep the cumbersome workers’ compensation program and join the Trust to receive quality care benefits if fire fighters develop cancer or heart disease.
The Trust was established with input from the CPFF, the Colorado State Fire Chiefs and the Colorado State Division of Insurance and representatives from local state and special district fire agencies. Each entity, including the CPFF, has a representative on a board of directors managing the Trust, which is funded by contributions by state and local employers. However, fire fighters who choose to join the Trust are no longer part of the state workers’ compensation program.
CPFF President Mike Frainier, who sits on the Trust’s board, says the Trust has been hugely successful and popular among Colorado fire fighters, providing essential benefits in a more efficient manner than with the state’s cumbersome workers’ compensation process.
“The CPFF and the Chiefs worked hard to put this Trust together. It works really well for our members,” says Frainier. “Now, thanks to efforts of Tracy Post, fire fighters with breast cancer are included in the trust.”
Previously, the Trust program provided benefits for those suffering from five types of cancer: brain, digestive, genitourinary, hematological and skin cancers. The Trust board ruled in late August of this year that breast cancer would also be included going forward.
“I filed a claim for my cancer and was initially denied by the Trust but was then allowed to appeal and provide in-person testimony,” Post says. In her appeal, Post made the case that cancers involving the male reproductive system were included in the Trust so it would stand to reason that cancer involving the entire female reproductive system should also be included.
The Trust’s ruling to add breast cancer came well after Post underwent a double mastectomy.
“I love being a fire fighter and I know this is the job that was meant for me,” says Post, who Post focused on her recovery, pushing herself at every opportunity. After two surgeries and four rounds of chemotherapy followed by intense rehabilitation, Post was cleared to return to her job on August 2.
While the Trust’s decision came too late to provide benefits for Post, she is extremely heartened to know that her efforts will mean that fire fighters can have the peace of mind knowing that if they get breast cancer, the Trust will be there to back them up.