Voices from the Frontline: The Struggle of Injured Fire Fighters and Their Families in the Workers' Compensation System
Fire fighters are among the bravest and most selfless individuals in our society. They put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities from fires, accidents, and natural disasters. When a fire fighter is injured on the job, they expect to receive the support and care they need to recover and get back to their duties. But unfortunately, sometimes they can’t. Either way, the workers' compensation system can be complex, confusing, and even hostile, making it difficult for fire fighters and their families to navigate.
We are sharing a recent post from Amanda Allison, the wife of our medically retired brother, Fire Fighter Andy Allison. Amanda shares her personal experience and spouses perspective of dealing with the workers' compensation system and the challenges of coping with the aftermath of a serious injury. Her powerful message sheds light on the difficulties faced by injured fire fighters and their families and the urgent need for reform in our workers' compensation system.
Most of you know Andy and I are very private people. We keep things in-house, like to help others, and are very veryyy slow to ask for it in return. Instead of putting our honest experiences out there, we tend to buckle down push harder through things, and rely on each other.
We are SO blessed to have each other and to have family and friends around us that can see through our smiles to the truth.
But - lately, so much has happened, especially locally lately in regard to mental health, first responders and I personally have read and been told how surprised and shocked people are by the various events.
So I wanted to share another, honest perspective. This is going to have only a FEW of the “did you know” nuggets we have learned and lived....
- Did you know - unlike others, disabled first responders CANNOT work a job and receive benefits? They lose their benefits if they try to step in and help their family when the cost of living increases.
- Did you know - LODD benefits take better care of first responders' families than disabled benefits? But when a first responder lives - they cannot work, so not only is the benefit less but the cost of living is higher. This is a HUGE reason why mental health issues are prevalent in disabled first responders.
- Did you know - injured first responders who have been deemed “disabled for life” have to prove their injury every year (sometimes more randomly) to provide evidence in order to continue certain benefits. Usually, there is also a 30-day ticking clock and requires a special doctor visit/appointment.
- Did you know - they limit the visits for PTSD and counseling for these responders.
That 50-dollar visit to the counselor 1 - 2 a month could save so many first responders but it’s not a priority, even when the doctors, and the therapists state it should be continued.
Families of heroes who are affected for the rest of their lives because they were injured responding and helping their community are left stressing over groceries every month. Time and time again we hear injured responders tell us “The state would rather take care of a LODD and move on than a disabled person, that has to fight every day to survive this shh….”
SO here is where I am going to be honest and real, which you don’t get much so buckle in friends.
This week alone we have:
- Andy recovering from a failed surgery that we financially covered ourselves.
- Gotten that lovely “prove you are still were electrocuted” letter
- We are fighting workers comp. to cover dental bills from 2020 that they never paid, even though they pre-approved the visits. The dentist office meanwhile is threatening to send us to collections even though it is a workers comp treatment plan.
When we had NO IDEA that they were not even paid, and visits have continued to be pre-authorized and paid for since 2020.
- I broke down in the pharmacy when picking up Andy’s medication after surgery when they told me I was trying to fill multiple prescriptions, and the DEA would get involved over 5 days worth of post-surgery medicine they prescribed for breakthrough pain.
Unfortunately, his normal meds had been routinely filled earlier that week - so we must be opioid abusers.
All this in front of my kids -hence the breakdown.
11 years after his injury, having never abused one medication EVER (another fun DYK - disabled first responders are drug tested regularly). But he’s in the disabled pain management system so hey let’s take the opportunity to shame someone’s wife, infront of her kids knowing that this first responder has an average of 2 major surgeries a year and WANTED NONE of this injury.
- Speaking of medicine... This week I got to go with him (since he can’t drive yet) to his pain management visit. I asked them what he can include in his diet to help with the GI issues his regular routine/medicine causes. They had no answer…. When I suggested probiotics they shrugged. Apparently, pain management is only required by workers comp to drug test you, and not focus on helping you live a longer healthier, and happier life even after traumatic injuries.
For years Andy has tried to make legislative changes. This go around not one of the representatives or their offices have returned calls or emails after stating they wanted to move forward with a meeting.
These are in regards to First Responder benefits - simple things to match other states and other policies in place that First Responders don’t receive. Things like - rates on the cost of living/inflation increase on benefits because we all know that the $100 made in 2012 is not the same as $100 in 2023. But our legislation is not written like that.
It's astonishing to us that people wonder why first responders have mental health issues, PTSD, or are suicidal. If you are a first responder struggling, upset, or feeling isolated you ARE NOT alone. This is a broken system and we are in it too - speak to someone, reach out, and share what you are going through.
YOU ARE A BLESSING to your family, they would NOT be better off without you and you are appreciated for all you have done in your time of service even when you don't feel it.