Denial of benefits worries widow of Granite Mountain Hotshot
Juliann Ashcraft she's been denied the lifetime benefits she was counting on to raise her four children after her husband was killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire. (Source: CBS News)
Prescott city officials say that Andrew Ashcraft was not a full-time employee of the city's fire department and ineligible for lifetime benefits. (Source: Ashcraft family photo)
"Quite literally, my bills are being paid by the good people of the world who are giving donations, because the city of Prescott isn't doing anything for us," says Juliann Ashcraft.
PRESCOTT, AZ (CBS News) -
More than a month ago, 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed in a fast-moving wild fire that burned through the small community of Yarnell in western Arizona.
While the community is supporting the families of the Hotshots, the majority of them will not receive full death benefits.
The fire that swept over the Hotshots left Juliann Ashcraft a widow. Her husband, Andrew, was 29 years old.
"I want to be able to just be mourning my husband, be supporting my children, be figuring out what our new normal is," Juliann Ashcraft said.
But she's been denied the lifetime benefits she was counting on to raise her four children. The youngest is 18 months old.
When asked if she thought the benefits would be much of an issue, she said, "No. As shocked as I was that my husband went to work and never came home, I'm equally shocked in how the city has treated our family since then."
All 19 Hotshot families will receive worker's compensation, and a one-time federal payment of $328,000. But the city insists Andrew Ashcraft and 12 others were seasonal employees and are therefore not entitled to the lifetime salaries and health benefits - worth millions - given to the six full-time Hotshots.
"I said to them, 'My husband was a full-time employee, he went to work full time for you.' And their response to me was, 'Perhaps there was a communication issue in your marriage,'" Juliann Ashcraft said.
Paperwork obtained by CBS News shows that Andrew Ashcraft did earn a full-time salary. And the local firefighters union told CBS News that of the 13 Hotshots denied full benefits, Ashcraft was the only one to work 40 hours a week year round.
City officials declined multiple requests for an interview but Thursday issued a statement, saying, "The City has fully complied with all of the laws and employment policies that direct survivor benefits."
"Quite literally, my bills are being paid by the good people of the world who are giving donations, because the city of Prescott isn't doing anything for us," Ashcraft said. "And now I have four kids and myself and I don't know what I'm going to do!"
Her plans may soon include a lawsuit against the city.