BAYTOWN, Texas (FOX 26) - "It feels like a betrayal and a slap in the face," said Baytown firefighter Patrick Mahoney.
At the age of 20, Mahoney became a Baytown firefighter. Now, Mahoney said he's worried about how the City of Baytown is treating him and other firefighters diagnosed with cancer.
In December 2016, Mahoney said he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He had surgery and took two weeks off to recuperate.
Mahoney filed Workman's Compensation claims to cover his medical bills.
"Any firefighter who is not a tobacco user who gets cancer is presumed to have gotten it on duty," said Mahoney. "It's a line of duty illness."
"We have a presumptive law for a reason and we understand the risks coming to work every day," said Dallas Webb, president of the Baytown Professional Firefighters Association.
The City of Baytown fought Mahoney Workman's Compensation claim and lost not once but twice.
The Texas Department of Insurance told Baytown city officials to pay Mahoney's medical bills. They filed a lawsuit against him instead.
In a statement, the City of Baytown says the state agency charged with addressing these types of disputes has taken inconsistent positions on the types of cancer covered under the applicable law. That's why the city said it's suing Mahoney.
"Most of the citizens I've talked to are pretty flabbergasted that this is even happening," said Webb. "They don't understand why."
In just the last year, Webb said four Baytown firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer.
"We had a firefighter here who died from stomach cancer and they denied his claim and he died and was unable to pursue it," said Mahoney.
In the statement, Baytown officials say the city had the right to appeal the state agency's decision and the city has chosen to exercise that right.
The statement goes on to say the City of Baytown has paid all the benefits it was ordered by the state agency to pay Mahoney and continues to do so.