The families of 13 of the 19 Arizona firefighters who tragically died in the recent Yarnell Hill fire are now arguing with the City of Prescott about whether the surviving family members of these firefighters ought to be entitled to certain federal and state benefits normally available exclusively to full-time employees.
The reason that the families of these 13 firefighters might not get benefits, such as monthly survivor payments and life and health insurance, is that they were technically “seasonal” or “temporary” employees at the time of their deaths.
While some have stated that the City of Prescott, which employed these men, had promised that the 13 “seasonal” employees would be treated as full-timers for the purpose of collecting benefits, the City denies this, saying that such a promise would violate the law. Some, however, see this argument as the city’s attempt to avoid paying extra benefits.
Hopefully, the families of these fallen firefighters will receive the benefits that they deserve. Fortunately, however, these families are also eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in addition to whatever other public and private compensation that they may receive. Because these firefighters died while performing their job duties, their families should receive workers’ compensation for lost income, medical expenses and funeral expenses.
However, as this case illustrates, getting workers’ compensation or other benefits may not always be easy. The payments on workers’ compensation claims can be expensive, so some businesses or government agencies may use whatever reason they can to avoid paying, which can make matters very difficult for the family of an injured or deceased worker.
Source: NBC News, “Yarnell Hill firefighters’ kin say they’re being cheated out of benefits,” M. Alex Johnson, Aug. 7, 2013