Governor Rick Snyder signed a new legislative amendment to the Michigan Workers’ Disability Compensation Act on January 14, 2015 to create the First Responders Presumed Coverage Fund (also known as the First Responders Fund). As of the date of publication, there is not yet funding available and the various procedures for implementation and/or processing claims for this Fund are still being discussed.
The purpose of this legislation is to create a presumption that a “personal injury” has been sustained by a defined group of claimants (primarily full-time, active service firefighters who meet the criteria outlined in § 405) who are diagnosed with various types of cancers. A full list of the included cancers is listed in subsection (2) of § 405 At the time when the cancer manifests itself, the claimant must have been employed in a position that includes “expos[ure] to the hazards incidental to fire suppression, rescue, or emergency medical services” and have been employed for sixty months or more.
If these criteria are met, the claimant’s “personal injury” (cancer) is PRESUMED to be work-related if he or she files his or her claim for workers’ compensation benefits against the First Responders Fund. In order to claim benefits from the Fund, the claimant must suspend any claim that he or she has directly against the employer. If he or she files the claim against the employer, no presumption applies; in other words, there is only a presumption of work-relationship if the claim is filed against the newly created First Responders Fund as opposed to the employer. If a claimant redeems his or her case with the Fund, he or she suspends any claim against the employer indefinitely. Prior to filing for benefits, subsection (4) requires that a claimant “shall first apply for and do all things necessary” to qualify for any pension benefits “to which he or she…may be entitled.”
In order to rebut the presumption, the Fund may submit “scientific evidence that a [claimant] was a substantial and consistent user of cigarettes or other tobacco products within the ten years immediately preceding the date of injury” and that this use “was a significant factor” in the development of the cancer.
Please continue to visit the Resources section of our website for updates on the implementation of this law, as well as any and all other updated information pertaining to workers’ compensation law and practice in Michigan.