It is about a two-hour drive southwest of Fairfax to get to Charlottesville. Home to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, the city of just under 50,000 is also home to The Daily Progress, one of the few surviving daily newspapers in cities of that size.

The paper recently carried an editorial urging reform of Virginia workers’ compensation to make it more responsive to claims submitted by injured workers.

The paper notes that a state study has shown our workers’ comp system “is both unusually strict in its requirements” and “often unresponsive to claims even after employees have met the requirements.”

One of the sore points in the study: the lack of coverage for the dedicated men and women who protect our communities. Public safety workers – police officers, firefighters, EMTs and others – argue that they are required to present unrealistic documentation to support claims of illness and injury.

The state report urges the General Assembly to make legislative changes that will ensure that public safety workers get the workers’ comp coverage they need and deserve for illnesses incurred while protecting us from fires, crime, etc.

The paper notes that recommended changes include the following:

  • Add brain cancer and testicular cancer to the list of illnesses that can be presumed to be related to work-related exposure (the report writers also urged lawmakers to consider adding colon cancer to the list). In that way, workers wouldn’t be required to prove those terrible diseases were directly connected to work activities. Instead, the state’s workers’ compensation system would acknowledge the medical research documenting the connection and make the assumption that the diseases were connected to work.
  • Stop requiring workers to prove exposure to specific carcinogens (a task nearly impossible to undertake). Firefighters are often exposed to carcinogens when battling blazes in homes and commercial buildings. Instead, Virginia would acknowledge that in the course of their work, fire inspectors and firefighters come into contact with cancer-causing substances.
  • Reduce the amount of time workers must serve before they qualify for workers’ compensation. It’s currently 12 years.
  • Expand coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder.

If we want excellent public safety workers protecting Fairfax and the rest of Virginia, we must be willing to help them deal with illness brought on by these difficult and stressful jobs. After all, they risk everything for us.