State retirement system OKs disability benefits for Fla. FF-medic; county refuses to pay

Polk County continues to deny Christina Pierson a $25,000 benefit offered by the state

By Leila Merrill

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — The Florida Retirement System approved line-of-duty disability retirement benefits for former Polk County Firefighter-Paramedic Christina Pierson, but Polk County has not reversed its position, ClickOrlando reported 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 benefit law signed by the governor in 2019 includes a payment to help cover medical bills and lost wages and lists 21 types of cancer. The county had argued against giving her the benefit because her diagnosis came after the law went into effect.

“This is what’s so unique about Christina’s case,” said her attorney, Geoff Bichler. “You had a diagnosis before the law went into effect and then you have the confirmed disability after the law went into effect.”

Pierson went through medical evaluations by physicians in pulmonary and oncology medicine before the Florida Retirement System decision. The decision was issued on May 24.

Polk County has refused to change its position.

“I’m not asking for something I don’t deserve,” Pierson said. “I want them to say it (Line of duty disability), 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 feels hopeful.

“Thankfully, the right door was finally opened and I can’t be any more grateful for that,” Pierson told News 6. ”We’re getting it more known.”

“At the moment I’m on maintenance chemo,” Pierson said, “Basically because my oncologist is going to find out what’s next.”

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