The widow of one of the 19 Arizona firefighters killed battling a wildfire on June 30 is being denied salary and health benefits due to her despite her husband being a full-time employee, CBS News reported on Monday.
“I said to them, ‘My husband was a full-time employee. He went to work full-time for you,’” Juliann Ashcraft told CBS. “And what their response to me was, ‘Perhaps there was a communication issue in your marriage.’”
Ashcraft’s husband, Andrew Ashcraft, was part of the “hotshot” crew based out of Prescott, Arizona, that was consumed by a fire fueled by severe wind changes.
City officials contend that Andrew Ashcraft and 12 other members of the team were employed on a seasonal basis, which disqualifies them from the benefits for bereaved families of full-time city employees. The families of all 19 victims will get a one-time federal payment of $328,000 and worker’s compensation.
But CBS reported that Andrew Ashcraft was employed on a full-time basis, and officials with local union group United Yavapai Firefighters told CBS that he was the only one working 40 hours a week on a year-round basis among the firefighters currently denied full-time benefits.
“The city has fully complied with all of the laws and employment policies that direct survivor benefits,” city officials told CBS in a statement.
Watch CBS’ report on Juliann Ashcraft’s fight for benefits, aired Monday, below.