Firefighter's Widow Fights for Benefits in Arizona

Juliann Ashcraft's husband was part-time employee

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 7, 2013 11:03 AM CDT

(Newser) – The family of one of the 19 Arizona firefighters killed in June is making a public pitch today to pressure the city of Prescott into giving his widow and their four children health and pension benefits, reports the Arizona Republic. The sticking point is that Andrew Ashcraft wasn't technically a full-time employee, though he did work full-time hours, reports CBS News. Widow Juliann Ashcraft will get a federal payment of $328,000, but she won't get monthly survivor benefits, health insurance, or an insurance payout—unlike the families of the full-time crew members.

"I said to them, 'My husband was a full-time employee, he went to work full-time for you," says Ashcraft. "And their response to me was, 'Perhaps there was a communication issue in your marriage.'" Prescott officials say the issue is clear-cut. "The city cannot do this legally," they say in a statement. "The benefits for programs such as health insurance and the public-safety employee pension can only be provided if the individual was enrolled in those programs when the death occurred.” In all, 13 of the 19 Hotshots crew members killed were part-timers, but Ashcraft was the only one among them who worked at least 40 hours a week, says CBS. He had recently gotten a raise to $15.03 an hour, on par with supervisors, adds the Republic.

This undated file photo provided by the Ashcraft family shows firefighter Andrew Ashcraft.
This undated file photo provided by the Ashcraft family shows firefighter Andrew Ashcraft.   (AP Photo/Courtesy Ashcraft Family, File)
This undated photo provided by the Ashcraft family shows firefighter Andrew Ashcraft with his wife Juliann and their four children.
This undated photo provided by the Ashcraft family shows firefighter Andrew Ashcraft with his wife Juliann and their four children.   (AP Photo/Courtesy Ashcraft Family)
Juliann Ashcraft, the wife of deceased firefighter Andrew Ashcraft, arrives for a community vigil on July 2 in Prescott, Ariz.
Juliann Ashcraft, the wife of deceased firefighter Andrew Ashcraft, arrives for a community vigil on July 2 in Prescott, Ariz.   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
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