Letter: Peter M. Sweeny, Leesburg

Editor: Patrick Szabo’s article “Loudoun Firefighters Fight for Better Cancer Coverage Under Workers’ Comp Rules” was a welcome focus on the hazards firefighters face protecting the public. I have one noted disagreement, however.  It is not true that “for workers who are injured on the job, securing workers’ compensation is often a straightforward task.”

I have been representing injured workers, including police and firefighters, in workers’ compensation cases for over 40 years. I was involved in the early legal fights over the Heart/Lung law about which Mr. Szabo writes. An entire section of the reference book I authored, “The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Case Finder,” is dedicated to the Heart/Lung law. I can assure you, obtaining workers’ compensation is not a straightforward task. This is a popular misconception: that suffering an injury at work automatically entitles you to workers’ compensation coverage. That this is not true is illustrated simply by the growth of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission over the past 40 years as the need to adjudicate disputes in workers’ compensation has grown. In addition, the Virginia Court of Appeals has, since its creation in 1985, issued volumes of decisions specifically dealing with workers’ compensation.

Injured workers are hurt, broke and scared. Their income has been stopped, they have medical bills piling up, and they are injured. Resolution of entitlement to the benefits of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act can take months, and sometimes years. The process is anything but straightforward, as Cathy McCray is finding out. The addition of a cancer presumption to the Heart/Lung law should make the process easier for the valiant men and women who are exposed to carcinogens while protecting the public.

Peter M. Sweeny, Leesburg

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