Carper, Collins Applaud Committee Passage of Bill to Expand Benefits for Federal Firefighters

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, today celebrated the committee passage of their bill, the Federal Firefighter Fairness Act of 2021, at a business meeting held by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC). The legislation would help to ensure federal firefighters receive the financial support they deserve for illnesses and diseases associated with the performance of their duties as a firefighter. 

“Federal firefighters put themselves in harm’s way to save lives and protect our nation’s public lands. In this dangerous line of work, these heroic men and women are at higher risk of developing certain diseases—like respiratory illnesses and a variety of cancers. We owe it to them to ensure they get the benefits and support they deserve for putting their own personal safety at risk,” said Carper. “I’m proud the Committee passed our bill today, and urge the full Senate to follow suit so we can get this bipartisan bill to President Biden’s desk swiftly.” 

“Every day across the country, firefighters put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe,” said Collins. “Federal firefighters protect some of our nation’s most critical assets and infrastructure, and these brave men and women should have the same occupational safeguards and benefits as most of their colleagues at the local level. I am pleased that Congress has taken another step toward passing our bipartisan bill, which would allow federal firefighters to receive the benefits they deserve when they fall ill as a result of their service to our nation.”

“Federal fire fighters are always on the frontlines protecting our nation’s vital military installations, federal facilities, laboratories, and neighboring communities. For too long, the federal government has denied fire fighters workers compensation benefits when they fall victim to occupational cancers, heart, and lung disease despite scientific links between firefighting and these deadly diseases,” said Edward A. Kelly, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “Today, we are very close to eliminating the bureaucratic burdens on sick federal fire fighters who need their workers’ compensation benefits. I applaud Senator Carper for his unwavering leadership on this issue and for securing a favorable vote from the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on the Federal Firefighter Fairness Act. This bill will soon grant federal fire fighters workers compensation benefits that are on par with the protections 49 states provide for their local and state fire fighters.”

The Federal Firefighters Fairness Act would amend the Federal Employee Compensation Act to create a presumption that a disability or death of a federal firefighter caused by certain diseases is the result of the performance of their duties. The conditions include bladder cancer, brain cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, leukemias, lung cancer, mesothelioma, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, prostate cancer, skin cancer (melanoma), testicular cancer, thyroid cancer, and a sudden cardiac event or stroke. 

In April 2021, Senators Carper and Collins introduced the Federal Firefighter Fairness Act along with Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Angus King (I-Maine), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). In May 2022, the House of Representatives voted in a bipartisan fashion to approve and advance the House companion bill first introduced by Representative Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.).

In addition to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the legislation is also supported by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE)