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After claim reversal, Glendale firefighter with cancer wins benefits

PHOENIX – A Glendale firefighter battling both job-related cancer and a workers’ compensation denial has learned the decision was reversed and his claim approved.

“It was like a huge mountain just got lifted off my shoulders,” Capt. Kevin Thompson told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos on Thursday.

“For me you had the physical part of the battle in fighting the cancer, but how to finance that fight after I retire and don’t have my health insurance benefits becomes a very real deal. How do I stay alive, how do I pay for it becomes an issue.”

Thompson was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in April of this year. He’s been a firefighter for more than two decades.

He filed for workers’ compensation May 24 and was denied June 25.

In a press release Thursday, Mayor Jerry Weiers announced the reversal and said Thompson was notified the previous day.

Weiers said the city’s attorneys previously believed an independent third-party administrator’s decision to deny claims couldn’t be overturned.

But last week a spokesperson for the Industrial Commission of Arizona told the city it could override claim decisions.

With that information, the city asked the administrator to approve Thompson’s claim, and the administrator agreed, Weiers said.

“We met yesterday with Kevin and shared the excellent news,” he said.

“Please continue to keep Kevin and his family in your thoughts and prayers as he works toward a healthy recovery.”

Glendale Fire Capt. Kevin Thompson (KTAR News Photo/Matt Bertram)

Thompson said the city never explained the initial ruling.

“I never really got a really good answer from any of our city leaders on why exactly my claim was denied,” he said.

Thompson said cancer is becoming “an epidemic” among firefighters, and it’s expensive to treat.

“I think cities look at the dollar signs associated with treating firefighters with cancer and the potential for a lot of us coming down with it, and the dollar amount scares them,” Thompson said.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that forms in certain white blood cells. Doctors told Thompson he’ll have the disease for as long as he lives. It’s incurable but can be treated.

However, the treatment is expensive.

“I require chemotherapy for the rest of my life … to hold it off from making me sick to the point until I succumb to it,” Thompson told KTAR News last month. “In the first 21 days of treatment, I paid just over $4,000.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

KTAR News 92.3 FM has investigated the continuing pattern of Valley firefighters being denied workers’ compensation coverage when diagnosed with cancer. This series, continuing next week, will tell the story of four firefighters and the process of their claims being denied.

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