WASHINGTON – Today’s executive session of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved a bill that Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) has worked on for years to help improve worker’s compensation benefits for federal firefighters exposed to daily health risks.
Sen. Carper used his position as chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information to fight for committee approval of his Federal Firefighters Fairness Act (S. 1924).
Numerous studies have shown that firefighters – due to their daily exposure to stress, smoke, heat, various toxic substances and often infectious diseases – are far more likely than other workers to contract illnesses such heart disease, lung disease and certain cancers.
Although about 40 states have enacted laws allowing firefighters to be eligible for worker’s compensation to cover these common ailments, no such law covers firefighters employed by the federal government.
“If we’re going to send federal firefighters into dangerous situations day in and day out, we must deal with the consequences that result from their hazardous work,” Sen. Carper said. “Just as we don’t flinch when it comes time to provide protection and world-class healthcare for our men and women in combat, we shouldn’t shirk our responsibility to the men and women in the federal fire service who we depend on to protect us here at home, including those who serve at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.”
In short, this Federal Firefighters Fairness Act establishes a presumption that federal firefighters who contract diseases shown to be more prevalent among firefighters contracted those diseases on the job. This would make federal firefighters eligible for worker’s compensation benefits even if they cannot point to a specific fire or emergency situation that caused the disease.