Firefighters put their lives at risk day-in and day-out. Their bravery saves lives, but it can also cost them their health. For this reason, certain benefits are accorded to firefighters here who suffer cancer due to their work.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, firefighters are more likely than the general populace to receive a cancer diagnosis and to die from the disease. For this reason, many states have passed laws in which it is presumed that if a firefighter is diagnosed with cancer, either while employed or within a specific time frame once they retire, that the disease was caused due to their job duties. These laws are meant to make it easier for firefighters to obtain workers' compensation benefits or death benefits in the case of a fatality.
In our state, firefighters who suffer from a disabling cancer that develops or manifests itself while the firefighter is employed as such is entitled to occupational disease disability benefits. There are some restrictions. The cancer at issue must be one that manifests itself due to exposure to heat, radiation or known carcinogens and the cancer must arise due to the individual's service as a firefighter.
The pension is payable during the course of the illness. If the firefighter sufficiently recovers so that they are no longer disabled, the pension will cease, although the firefighter may be eligible for other pension benefits. If the firefighter passes away due to the cancer, the pension will be paid to the firefighter's survivors.
These benefits stand alongside traditional workers' compensation benefits in Illinois covering occupational diseases, including the rebuttable presumption that a firefighter who suffers an occupational disease was made ill due to their employment. Firefighters put their lives at risk for the safety of others, and they deserve to be made whole financially when this sacrifice costs them their health.