Firefighter's widow seeks health benefits from Buffalo Grove
Earlier this year, Buffalo Grove officials agreed to abide by court ruling requiring the village to pay full pension benefits to the widow of firefighter Kevin Hauber, who died of colon cancer in January 2018.
Now Kimberly Hauber is asking the village pay health insurance benefits for her family also, arguing they are entitled under the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act, which provides health care benefits at the municipality's expense to a first responder who dies in the line of duty responding to an emergency.
The village board will decide Monday whether to convene a hearing to hear her claims.
Hauber already has filed litigation in Lake County over the request, claiming that the village has ignored her application.
"This is provided by state law," said the family's attorney, Thomas Mazur. "These are benefits that this family is entitled to, having already lost a husband and a father. This is not an angry widow demanding something she is not entitled to."
If Buffalo Grove trustees decide to convene the hearing, as village staff recommends, Village President Beverly Sussman would appoint a hearing officer to oversee the proceedings.
If the village does not follow staff's recommendation Monday, the Hauber family would receive the benefits, Deputy Village Manager Jennifer Maltas said.
Kevin Hauber, 51, died after a nearly 24-year career with the Buffalo Grove Fire Department. The village's fire pension board later determined that his cancer was caused by his work as a firefighter, making his survivors eligible for full line-of-duty benefits.
After the village disputed the finding, a Lake County judge ruled that Kimberly Hauber was eligible to receive about $101,549 a year in pension benefits. The village lost its appeal and decided not to ask the Illinois Supreme Court to consider the case.
After the pension case was resolved, the family applied for health benefits, Mazur said.
"We didn't receive any response for some time," he said. "It was long enough that we felt like we were being ignored."
Maltas disputes Mazur's claims.
"We had never received an application for this benefit on her behalf," she said. "They had no proof of service that we had ever received it, and so we worked, our counsel and her counsel, to stay the order in court until they were able to go through our administrative process."
In recommending the hearing, Village Manager Dane Bragg contends that there is insufficient evidence to establish that Hauber's cancer resulted from a response to an emergency situation. If there is evidence, Kimberly Hauber should have the opportunity to provide it at the hearing, he said.
"What other circumstance could he have contracted (the cancer) other than responding to fires within the (village)?" Mazur responded.