U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) today introduced the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act to strengthen the disability protections for thousands of federal firefighters nationwide. Under current law, the federal government does not presume that certain illnesses associated with firefighting, such as heart and lung disease, are job-related. Instead, to qualify for disability retirement, a federal firefighter who suffers from an occupational illness must specify the precise exposure that caused the illness – an almost insurmountable burden.
The Federal Firefighters Fairness Act would alleviate this burden by presuming that the hazardous work environment in which firefighters operate caused the illness, unless the employing agency can demonstrate otherwise. This legislation would also bring the federal government’s laws into conformity with the firefighter disability laws of 41 States.
“This bill is a simple one. It’s about doing the right by the men and women who knowingly put their lives and health at risk to protect us. It would ensure that federal firefighters, including those working at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, who fall ill as a result of the work they do are treated fairly. We owe them nothing less,” said Sen. Carper.
“Federal firefighters put their lives on the line each day to protect our nation’s most critical assets and infrastructure, and these brave men and women deserve the same occupational safeguards and benefits as their colleagues at the local level,” said Senator Collins, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Our legislation would relieve Federal firefighters of an unnecessary obstacle to receiving the badly needed benefits that they deserve when they fall ill as a result of their inherently hazardous work environment.”
The legislation is supported by several national fire service organizations, including the International Association of Fire Fighters, International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Fire Protection Association, and the Congressional Fire Services Institute.
Senators Carper and Collins are two of the co-Chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, the largest caucus in Congress. The bipartisan group supports legislation that benefits firefighters and other first responders.