Vt. Firefighter's Workers' Comp. Claim Denied

COLCHESTER, Vt. --

The Colchester Volunteer Fire Department is speaking out over a workers' comp denial for one of its firefighters, saying the state law has a loophole that could endanger other volunteers.

Volunteer firefighter Jason Stech was working on improvements to the fire station last month when he fell and shattered his ankle. Stech filed for workers compensation, but the insurance company denied his claim, saying it was not covered under the state's definition of "line of duty."

"You're covered for any injuries. I assumed (that) meant while I was doing anything that had to do with the department," Stech said.

Under Vt. law, volunteer firefighters can get help for injuries incurred in the line of duty. The law defines that as things like responding to a call, participating in drills and even participating in a parade. The law doesn't specify projects at the station building.

"I've been doing this for 20 years and I had no idea that this was something that wouldn't be covered," department President John Meyers said.

Stech filed an appeal that should take a few weeks to process.

In the meantime, he and Meyers said they want to get the word out to other departments and that they both want the law to be changed to include any station-requested activity.

"It's my goal to at least make changes so fellow firefighters don't run into this down the road," Stech said.

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