New Law Protects Rhode Island Members Disabled by Cancer

August 24 • 2020

Following the successful lobbying efforts by the Rhode Island State Association of Fire Fighters (RISAFF), state legislators have passed a law guaranteeing cancer as an occupational illness and providing accidental disability benefits to fire fighters who can no longer work due to cancer complications.

“Our Rhode Island State Association of Fire Fighters team did an incredible job fighting to pass this law to protect our members with cancer,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “It is one of the best presumptive laws I have seen to date.”

“On the job, our members are exposed to cancer-causing agents every day. This law takes the burden of proving exactly which call caused their cancer,” says RISAFF President Joe Andriole. “I want to especially thank RISAFF lobbyist Paul Valetta for successfully guiding the legislation through the General Assembly to secure this benefit for our members who need it.”

If a fire fighter is diagnosed with a cancer but is expected to be treated and return to work, he or she is covered with full pay and benefits. However, if a fire fighter is unable to return to work due to complications from cancer, he or she can apply for accidental disability benefits through the pension system.

The original cancer law passed in 1986 protecting fire fighters in case of disability-causing cancer, but it required Rhode Island members to prove where they were exposed to cancer-causing carcinogens and that the cancer was specifically caused by fire fighting.

Connecting cancer to a specific emergency call is nearly impossible, and the RISAFF made it a legislative priority to remove that burden of proof. The new law makes all cancers conclusively presumed as job-related.  RISAFF worked hard to gain the support of state legislators to pass this legislation and to have the governor sign it into law.

RISAFF would like to thank all of its affiliated locals for their lobbying efforts, the state legislators for the support and the IAFF for its assistance.