As you are probably aware, the OJI program has recieved a complete overhaul over the past few years; due in part to our successful lawsuit upheld by the State Supreme Court ( Tiddwell & Coggins v. City of Memphis ). The decision in this case guarantees that every employee denied OJI benefits has the right to a trial before an administrative law judge, rather than the City's OJI coordinator.
Along with new mandates on how the City will handle these OJI claims, there are changes on how the employee will make a claim for benefits.
The importance cannot be stressed enough; if you are injured on-duty, you must report this injury withing the same shift, or no later than 24 hours from the incident (the latter of which was added to this policy).
Another important change, and a benefit for the employee is the time limit to file a claim for any diagnosis of an occupational illness or injury that occurs in the absense of injury or exposure on duty (i.e. HHL). An employee now has up to 30 days from the original diagnosis to file a claim for OJI benefits.
If an employee is seeking treatment for previously undiagnosed hypertension (high blood pressure), or any diseases of the heart or lungs, and there is a possibility of a claim for OJI benefits under the State's presumptive disability law for firefighters ("HHL"), if possible, please contact a Union officer prior to your scheduled appointment.
If it is not possible to contact a Union officer prior to seeking treatment, and you are diagnosed with a condition related to HHL (Heart, Hypertension and Lung), please do so as soon as possible after the diagnoses so that we may assist you with you claim.
Currently, Memphis Fire Fighters are not covered by a presumptive disability law for exposures. The Union is working to establish a voluntary internal system to help track exposures should you at sometime during your career contract a contagious disease (i.e. Hep-C, TB, etc). This information is shortly forthcoming. All members will be notified of the process once it is in place.
Also, if follow-up care is necessary after the initial treatment, the Third-Party-Administrator ("TPA") will provide the employee with a specialty (i.e. orthpedic, neurosurgeon, etc.,) panel of physicians from which the employee will select a physician. This is a very important decision. If at all possible, please contact the Union office prior to selecting this physician.
In the interim, please check back here soon for additional information related to OJI benefits and what the Union is doing to assist you to make this a better process.
If anyone has any questions or concerns prior to then, please contact me or another Union officer.
- Joe Norman