WASHINGTON- Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, introduced a bill that ensures that firefighters who were harmed in the line of duty or contracted certain diseases are covered by federal worker’s compensation. The “Federal Firefighters Fairness Act of 2014,” S.B. 2266, addresses the difficulties federal firefighters face when they attempt to prove that injuries were a result from serving in the line of duty.
“Firefighters are among the bravest individuals in our community. Nearly every day, these men and women are sent into some of the most difficult and dangerous environments to tame blazes, save lives, and protect properties,” said Chairman Carper. “Our federal firefighters put themselves in harm’s way every day, which can sometimes result in serious injury, including disability and certain diseases. This measure would help provide a better path to the care that these men and women need as a result of their work. I am proud to join Senator Collins in introducing this important bill.”
“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. “Our legislation would allow federal firefighters to receive the badly needed benefits that they deserve when they fall ill as a result of their service to our nation.”
Under current law, the Federal Employee Compensation Act (FECA) provides federal employees injured in the performance of duty with workers' compensation benefits. This bill would amend FECA so that if a federal firefighter dies or becomes disabled from a specified list of diseases, the disease will be presumed to have been caused by the employment, and the death or disability will be presumed compensable. The bill is intended to address the difficultly that firefighters who suffer from these diseases face in obtaining compensation under current law, which requires proof that the illness resulted from the line of duty. It would align the federal government with a number of states, which have various forms of such laws. This bill is similar to a previous one that Sens. Carper and Collins introduced in 2009. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) introduced a House companion bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), and Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.).
The bill is supported by the International Association of Firefighters.