Brothers and Sisters,
President Glorioso wrote an expanded letter to legisltors regarding the Presumptive bill. Though I would not expect any member to put the amount of time into his/her own letter, it is a shining example of the 'power of the pen'.
First, I would like to express our gratitude for further evaluating the merits of particular cancers being added to current Presumptive Disease legislation. The work of our past legislators and those who are tasked with the betterment of this legislation are doing the good work of taking care of those who make a career of taking care of others. I would like to share with you the path that our employer, the City of Bellingham, has taken in handling a terminal cancer case of one our own courageous firefighters.
Neil Carlberg served the City of Bellingham as a Fire Fighter for 33 years and 7 months. In short, he was a model employee with an exemplary work record. Neil literally fought hundreds of fires during his career, including the massive 980 Uniflite Boat Manufacturing and 1999 Olympic Pipeline fires. His last assignment was Driver/Engineer at Fairhaven's Fire Station 2. In August 2013, 1 year and 9 months after he retired, he was diagnosed with Stage IV Terminal Esophageal Cancer.
As you know, due to firefighters' increased risk of many types of cancer, Washington State has a presumptive cancer law which provides stricken firefighters with medical coverage by their employers. Unfortunately, Neil's esophageal cancer is not yet recognized by the State of Washington. Yet 26 other states do currently recognize esophageal cancer as presumptive cancer. In all cases, presumptive coverage is based on empirical data showing heightened risk by firefighters of said cancer.
On October 16, 2013, Fire Fighter Carlberg submitted an L & I claim to the City of Bellingham to recognize his cancer as an occupational disease as a result of multiple carcinogenic and toxic exposures during his career. The City is self-insured for L & I and uses a third party administrator, Eberle Vivian, to handle these claims.
The City of Bellingham has fervently fought recognizing Neil’s cancer as job-related. It is our understanding that this is a common tactic by some agencies to timeline/delay claims in hope that the claimant simply goes away in frustration or, in terminal cancer cases, dies. One might only take a moment to imagine what it must be like to fight with the City you have spent a lifetime protecting, while simultaneously fighting for your life.
Yet that is just what Neil did. Our research shows that this type of long delay has not been the case in other Washington Fire Fighter esophageal cancer L &I claims. Over the past several years we know of four other Washington Fire Fighters that have been stricken with esophageal cancer. Three at City of Seattle Fire Department and one at Spokane Valley Fire Department. Sadly, three have died. Both Fire Departments were L & I self-insured, and both of these government agencies decided, prior to the Fire Fighters' deaths, they would recognize their Fire Fighter's esophageal cancer as job-related: They would provide the Fire Fighter's medical coverage and deem their deaths duty-related. They would do right by their fallen servant. If only all of our leaders would view situations like Neil’s the same. There would be no need for advocates like you to have to fight to do the right thing.
Deeming Neil’s cancer job related would, upon his death, entitle his family to Fire Fighter death benefits provided by the state and federal governments. These benefits are crucial in providing for his family. It is simply disheartening to watch a Brother Fire Fighter, one who has devoted 33 years of his life protecting our citizens, battle this terrible disease while he is treated by the Mayor as if he were trying to pull something over on our City. The immense sum of money already spent by the City of Bellingham Executive's office resisting the notion that Neil’s cancer is job-related when sworn testimony by experts in the field refute that claim is deplorable.
On Wednesday, January 10th, 2018 our Brother Neil Carlberg died due to complications from esophageal cancer. Neil's family is still nowhere near a remedy with the City of Bellingham. Speaking for firefighters across the State of Washington we ask that Brother Neil Carlberg’s death not be in vain. We ask that you objectively evaluate the data provided by so many cancer experts. We strongly believe you will come to the conclusion that the inclusion of cancers, like esophageal, should be added to current Presumptive Disease legislation.
We are grateful for your consideration.
Robert V. Glorioso
Bellingham/Whatcom County IAFF Local 106