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First responder advocates push for workers' compensation reforms

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ABILENE, Texas - Advocates for wounded officers are traveling across Texas to share their battles with workers' compensation and lobby for two bills currently in the Texas Legislature.

House bills 1688 and 1689 were filed earlier this month by Texas Rep. Dustin Burrows--H.B. 1688 would provide law enforcement with a liaison within the Texas Department of Workers' Compensation agency and H.B. 1689 would allow law enforcement to take legal action, if necessary, against TDWC.

Mary Duncan, a wife of a wounded officer, has had several meetings with Rep. Burrows and local law enforcement agencies to help get the bills off the ground. She said one of the difficulties with workers' compensation is the wait.

Her husband, Tommy Duncan, was injured in the line of duty in 1977 while serving the Olney Police Department. She said he was shot in the face with a shotgun and nearly lost his vision.

She said officers need to wait till the agency gave them approval to see the doctor she said or whether or not they can have a procedure.

"It not only hurts that officer, it hurts the family, it hurts their children, it hurts everyone," Duncan said.

For Jacob Flores, a medically retired Lubbock police officer, TDWC wouldn't cover his medication. He was injured in the line of duty three years ago during what became his last foot chase.

"You just want to go out there and do what's good for the community, and being injured is in the back of the mind," Flores said.

His department was notified of an Amber Alert -- Flores encountered the suspect's vehicle when he got off work and started chasing. Flores broke his tibia after taking a wrong step while running.

Flores' injury was so severe he almost lost his foot and his body began to form blood clots. He needed blood thinners, but workers' compensation wouldn't cover the expense of $800 per month.

"I kept thinking, why was this medication being denied?" he said. "Why was the cost of it of any importance to my health?"

Flores also had to undergo physical therapy, and he needed more than the amount of sessions covered by workers' comp. So he paid out of pocket, and he still pays for items related to his injury out of pocket to this day. Flores said if it wasn't for physicians helping walk him through the process of working with workers compensation, he wouldn't be where he is today.

Duncan said the Peace Officers Angels Foundation helps officers in situations like Flores' but they are the only group in the state that does so.

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