Paralyzed firefighter to lose health benefits - KMSP-TV

A face to Detroit's bankruptcy: Paralyzed firefighter to lose health benefits

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By Charlie LeDuff, Fox 2 News

The federal government has money problems.

So, imagine the federal government telling wounded warriors coming back from overseas that they'll no longer take care of them, and instead, those veterans will get $200 a month for healthcare and a pair of broom sticks to walk around on.

Outrageous right?

Well that's what Detroit's wounded warriors, those who wore the badge and honorably served the community, are going to get if the bankruptcy stands as is.

Here's one of those warriors, firefighter Brendan Milewski, in his own words.

"August 13, 2010 - Friday the 13th - I was only at work for a couple minutes, never even stepped foot in the firehouse, taking my gear out of the car. We've got to run down to Jefferson and Drexel. We were working on the scene for ten, fifteen minutes and, without warning, a building collapsed on us.

"I was hit with a chunk of limestone the size of a parking block, and that basically exploded my seventh thoracic vertebra. Now I'm left to live the rest of my life as a T6 Paraplegic.

"It's a complete loss of identity for me, to be in this position now and not amongst my peers, and seen as weak and feeble and handicapped and disabled. I hate all these words. I hate that they describe me.

"I always understood that death was a legitimate possibility; I've seen enough of my friends die. I can't say Walter Harris' name enough. I never considered being injured to the point where I wasn't going to be who I was before, and having to live with the consequences. One would only assume that you make these kind of sacrifices at work, performing your job, that you'd be taken care of.

"I got a letter saying that my healthcare, through the city of Detroit, was going to be terminated as of January 1, 2014, and that, if I don't have another plan purchased by December 15th of this year, that I'll have a gap in coverage. And they're offering a $200 a month stipend to supplement the cost of purchasing my own health insurance.

"I definitely feel discarded. It's disheartening that guys like me put ourselves on the line everyday. These Detroit firemen, they put their lives, their bodies, on the line every day.

"When there's a school shooting, or when there's a building fire or a whatever, a car accident, hazardous chemical release - soldiers don't' show up. When you call 911 - we do. We're the first line of defense. And sacrificing our lives, our health, one would only assume that we would be taken care of.

"I do nine hours of physical therapy a week to keep from atrophy from my muscles shrinking up, losing mass and shriveling away. I have to insert a plastic tube in my penis so I can pee for the rest of my life. That costs money.

"The benefits that we got, they weren't given to us. They were earned. These guys worked their asses off for said 30, 40 years, sacrificing life and ... health. The least they could do is have some sort of security after they're gone, after the fires are out."

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