An investigative documentary on the denial of workers’ compensation claims for benefits by cancer-stricken Phoenix Valley firefighters shows what can happen when jouralists take their watch dog roles seriously.
KTAR News Reporter Ali Vetnar’s 22-minute, multi-chapter report titled “Fighting Fires & Cancer: A Story of Denial” aired September 5 and can be viewed in its entirety here. In the documentary, Vetnar follows the cases of four Valley firefighters diagnosed with and battling cancer. Initially, the firefighters’ claims for workers’ compensation benefits are denied by the insurance carriers for the municipalities where the firefighters serve. The carriers had denied the claims even though a 2017 change in the “firefighter cancer” statute included more types of cancers, which are to be presumed to be arising out of employment as a firefighter.
The documentary also notes that when the City of Phoenix became aware that it was denying the claims for benefits, city councilmembers overrode the decisions to deny and directed that the claims be accepted.
The Industrial Commission of Arizona told Vetnar that the carrier or the self-insured entity can accept a claim at any time during the process. It was only then — and under pressure from firefighters’ unions and KTAR’s reporting — that City of Glendale abruptly reversed course and accepted the claim for one of its firefighters.
Reporter Ali Vetnar’s in-depth look at this issue proves former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’s wise observation that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”.