Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Carper (D-DE), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, introduced legislation that would help ensure federal firefighters receive the financial support they deserve for diseases contracted in the line of duty. The Federal Firefighter Fairness Act of 2021 classifies a range of firefighting-linked illnesses, like lung diseases and certain cancers, contracted by federal firefighters as “job-related” and makes them automatically eligible for federal workers’ compensation and disability retirement benefits. Senator Angus King (I-ME) is a co-sponsor of the bill.
“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. Our legislation would allow federal firefighters to receive the benefits they deserve when they fall ill as a result of their service to our nation.”
“Federal firefighters run towards danger to save lives, protect property and safeguard our country’s public lands,” said Senator Carper. “But for too long, they have been forced to navigate a difficult pathway to secure workers’ compensation for diseases shown to be caused by fighting fires -- like respiratory illnesses and a variety of cancers. This bipartisan measure would help these heroic men and women get the financial support they deserve for putting their own personal safety at risk. I want to thank Sen. Collins and Rep. Carbajal for joining me again on this important effort.”
“Firefighters face immediate danger on a regular basis – but studies have shown that a lifetime of service can also contribute to health problems that arise later in life, including lung disease and a number of cancers,” said Senator King. “For far too long, our federal firefighters facing serious work-related illnesses have been forced to fight a maze of bureaucracies and red tape to receive the worker’s compensation they have earned by answering the call to service. This bipartisan legislation would right this wrong, providing the resources and peace of mind required to focus their energies on getting healthy. Let’s pass this bill – now.”
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 the employee’s duty. The diseases include heart and lung diseases, and various cancers such as brain cancer, cancer of the blood or lymphatic systems, skin cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, cancer of the digestive system, cancer of the respiratory system, and breast cancer.
In addition to Senators Collins, Carper, and King, the bill was co-sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
The legislation has received support from the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).
Click HERE to read the full text of the bill.