Legislation to provide federal fire fighters presumptive workers’ compensation benefits has been reintroduced by a bipartisan group of legislators. The Federal Firefighters Fairness Act, HR 2499, was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Salud Carbajal (D-CA) and Don Bacon (R-NE), and in the U.S. Senate, as S 1116, by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
General President Edward Kelly says, “Every fire fighter knows there is a link between the job and occupational illnesses, including cancer. The studies are there to prove the causal link is real. Forty-seven states provide presumptive benefits to fire fighters and their families. It is well beyond time for the federal government to take care of our federal fire fighters.”
Federal fire fighters protect our nation’s military installations, veterans’ medical centers, laboratories and our nation’s most critical assets and infrastructure and experience the same exposure to heat, stress, carcinogens and toxic chemicals as their state and municipal brothers and sisters. Yet, federal fire fighters do not receive any form of presumptive benefits, unlike fire fighters in 47 states.
Absent a presumptive benefit, federal fire fighters must demonstrate with specificity the precise exposure that caused their occupational illness. Cases of cancer are particularly hard to prove – fire fighters must identify the carcinogen they were exposed to, the duration of each exposure and the exposure location. These requirements fail to recognize the chaotic environment in which fire fighters operate, the complete lack of scientific instrumentation on the scene and the cumulative impact of multiple exposures to many different carcinogens over a fire fighter’s career. The Federal Firefighters Fairness Act will eliminate these requirements for federal fire fighters and allow them access to the benefits they need and deserve.