Widow fighting cancer battles Westfield for husband’s health insurance

Posted: Updated:
WESTFIELD -

A former resident of Union County is fighting for health benefits to stay alive.

Tammy Lieberman was already battling breast cancer when her husband died of a heart attack in May.

The news got even worse when Lieberman found out that her and her two sons were losing the health insurance her husband had while working as a police officer.

"I am beyond anxious all the time," Lieberman says. "I'm very sad and yet to be able to mourn."

The former Roselle Park resident recently moved to Florida with her sons to be closer to family as she undergoes cancer treatment.

Meanwhile, she is also battling the town of Westfield for health benefits that she says her husband earned.

Eric Lieberman had been with the Westfield Police Department for 27 years, but because he was still an active member of the force when he died, Tammy says her family isn't allowed to keep his health benefits.

Tammy says her husband could have retired two years earlier and that his health benefits were covering the cost of her chemotherapy, which she says is keeping her alive.

When Tammy posted her story on Facebook, residents from Westfield rallied to support her. One person even started a petition to the mayor to give Tammy and her sons their benefits back.

In a joint statement the town administrator and PBA president said, "In the absence of a contractual provision to address continuing health care cover coverage in this case, our policy is to defer to the federal COBRA laws.”

Tammy says she can't afford the $25,000 a year that the COBRA laws would make her pay.

"That man worked his butt off to provide for his family--thinking he's keeping them safe," Tammy says. "And the very township that he admired is hurting his family."

Town officials say they can't talk about personnel matters, but say they've "been privately working toward a solution to address (the family's) health care coverage concerns."

The town also says the family got a life insurance payout and pension benefit to help with financial burdens, but say they plan to work toward improved protections moving forward.

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