By Leila Merrill
POLK COUNTY, Fla. — The Florida Retirement System has approved disability retirement benefits for former Polk County paramedic firefighter Christina Pierson, but Polk County has not reversed its position, reported ClickOrlando Tuesday.
Pierson, who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2018, sued the county after being denied a $25,000 benefit offered by the state.
The Cancer Benefits Act signed by the governor in 2019 includes a payment to help cover medical expenses and lost wages and lists 21 types of cancer. The county objected to granting the benefit because his diagnosis came after the law came into effect.
“That’s what’s so unique about Christina’s case,” her attorney, Geoff Bichler, said. “You had a diagnosis before the law came into effect, then you have the disability confirmed after the law came into effect.”
Pierson underwent medical evaluations by physicians in pulmonary medicine and oncology prior to the Florida Retirement System decision. The decision was made on May 24.
Polk County declined to change its position.
“I’m not asking for something I don’t deserve,” Pierson said. “I want them to say it (Disability in the line of duty), I’m not going to stop until they admit it, that’s what I want.”
Pierson, who served Polk County as a firefighter-paramedic for six years, said she was hopeful.
“Luckily the right door was finally opened and I couldn’t be more grateful,” Pierson told News 6. “We’re making him better known.”
“Right now I’m on maintenance chemo,” Pierson said, “basically because my oncologist is going to find out what’s next.”