Carper, Collins Applaud Inclusion of Their Legislation to Expand Federal Firefighters Benefits in Annual Defense Package

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 inclusion of their bill, the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act, in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The 62nd annual NDAA supports nearly $858 billion for our nation’s armed services and national defense in Fiscal Year 2023. This year’s package includes legislation championed by Carper and Collins to ensure federal firefighters receive the support they deserve for illnesses and diseases associated with the performance of their duties as a firefighter.

“I’m elated that our bipartisan legislation to expand health and financial benefits for our nation’s hardworking federal firefighters is included in this year’s annual defense package for the first time ever. These brave men and women put themselves in harm’s way to save lives and protect our public lands—and if they contract an illness or disease on the job, we owe it to them to make sure they get the help they need,” said Senator Carper. “I look forward to supporting this critical legislation to expand benefits for our federal firefighters by voting in favor of this year’s NDAA, and look forward to seeing President Biden sign it into law shortly thereafter.”  

“Every day across the country, firefighters put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe,” said Senator 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. The inclusion of our bipartisan bill in the NDAA brings Congress another critical step closer to ensuring that federal firefighters are able to receive the benefits they deserve when they fall ill as a result of their service to our nation.”

“Cancer is the number one killer of fire fighters and eliminating this threat is the IAFF’s highest priority. Our sisters and brothers employed by the federal government face the same dangers and exposures as all our members, but they have long been denied their hard-earned worker’s compensation benefits. The IAFF applauds Senators Tom Carper and Susan Collins and Representatives Salud Carbajal and Don Bacon for leading the fight to make sure federal fire fighters can keep their health insurance, salary, and other benefits so that they can focus on their treatments and recovery from cancer,” said Edward A. Kelly, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “Supporting our brother and sister fire fighters in their battles against cancer goes right to the core of what we do as a union and what our nation owes to fire fighters. Thank you to all elected leaders who have corrected this long-standing disparity and we appreciate the shared commitment to protecting those who protect others.”

“We applaud Senator Tom Carper and Representative Salud Carbajal for all their hard work in advancing the Federal Firefighter Fairness Act and its ultimate inclusion in the NDAA. This bill will help improve federal firefighters’ access to health and safety benefits in the workplace. Specifically, this bill creates an automatic presumption of disability for federal firefighters who develop heart disease or certain forms of cancer so that they can qualify for workers’ compensation,” said Everett B. Kelley, President of AFGE.

TheFederal 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 the employee’s duty, thereby giving these federal firefighters parity with their state and local counterparts. 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.

Senator Carper has introduced a version of theFederal Firefighters Fairness Act since 2007. This Congress, Senators Carper and Collins introduced their bill in April 2021, and were joined by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Angus King (I-Maine), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). This year’s bill was favorably reported out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in May 2022.  

Supporters of the bill include the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI), the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE).

To view the entire text of the 62nd annual NDAA, click here. The text of the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act can be found on page 1,988.