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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 11:15 pm | Fair 51º

 
 
 
 

Capps Reintroduces Bill to Ensure Equal Benefits for Federal Firefighters

On Tuesday, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan  of Pennsylvania reintroduced the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act, legislation that would help ensure federal firefighters could obtain the disability benefits they deserve if they were harmed through the hazards of their service.

It will bring parity to federal and nonfederal firefighters who serve our communities.

Numerous studies have found heart disease, lung disease, certain cancers, and other infectious diseases to be occupational hazards of firefighting. Most municipal firefighters are automatically able to get disability coverage when they are diagnosed with such illnesses. However, current law requires federal firefighters — those who protect national forests, military installations, nuclear facilities and VA hospitals, and are regularly exposed to toxic substances, biohazards, temperature extremes and stress — to overcome a higher burden of proof to receive coverage by pinpointing the precise incident or exposure that caused the disease. This is not feasible and leaves many federal firefighters sick and without the care they have earned.

“Our firefighters risk their lives to protect our families and communities, and often suffer serious injuries and illnesses as a result,” Capps said. “This bill will go a long way toward ensuring every firefighter — including federal firefighters such as the Vandenberg Hot Shots and National Forest firefighters in Los Padres — receives the care that they need and deserve.”

“Firefighters have dangerous jobs, and every day they put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe,” Meehan said. “But current law treats federal firefighters differently when it comes to disability benefits. Federal firefighters face the same risks and dangers as our local first responders, and they should have the same protections under the law as well. This legislation ends the inequity and ensures they are treated fairly.”

“I applaud Reps. Capps and Meehan for reintroducing the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act," said Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Firefighters. “By creating a rebuttable presumption that federal fire fighters who become disabled by occupational illnesses contracted such illnesses as a result of their job, this important legislation will go a long way to help such fire fighters receive their hard-earned benefits.”

Capps, along with four other members, first introduced a similar bill in 2001. In 2005, Capps was the co-lead sponsor on the bill, and since 2007 Capps has introduced the FFFA each Congress, along with several Republican co-leads.

The bill is supported by the International Association of Firefighters, the Congressional Fire Services Institute and the National Fire Protection Association.

Currently, 42 states have some presumptive disability laws for municipal or state firefighters. These states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

— Chris Meagher is a press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps.

 

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