Carbajal’s Federal Firefighter Fairness Act Included in Year-End Deal on Track to Reach President’s Desk
Bipartisan measure that ensures federal firefighters enjoy the same access to benefits as their non-federal counterparts included in final 2022 defense policy bill headed to House Floor today
Washington, December 7, 2022
Today, Congressman Salud Carbajal announced that his bipartisan bill to improve disability and retirement benefits for federal firefighters is included in the final negotiated version of this year’s defense policy bill, putting it on a path to becoming law by the end of this month.
The Federal Firefighters Fairness Act, which had already passed the House earlier this year on its own and as a part of the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) National Defense Authorization Act, ensures federal firefighters receive the same access to job-related disability and retirement benefits as state, county, and municipal firefighters.
Congressman Carbajal has been the author and champion of this bill since his first year in Congress.
“Federal firefighters have been on the front lines in California fighting wildfires as we experience longer and more extreme fire seasons, but their threshold to prove work-related illness is much higher than their state or local counterparts here in California and around the nation,” said Congressman Carbajal. “That’s why I have worked for years to get this bipartisan commonsense bill to improve federal firefighters’ health and retirement benefits across the finish line.”
“I’m grateful to my House and Senate colleagues who saw the importance of this bill and who joined me in advocating that it be included in this bipartisan final package, including Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer, Chairman Adam Smith and Chairman Bobby Scott, Congressman Bill Johnson, my original co-leads Chairman Takano and Congressmen Bacon and Fitzpatrick, and the champions of our Senate companion bill Chairman Tom Carper and Senator Susan Collins.”
Carbajal’s measure would create the presumption that federal firefighters who become disabled by serious diseases, including heart disease, lung disease, certain cancers, and other infectious diseases, contracted the illness on the job.
Federal firefighters do not have the presumption that many local firefighters have – and are forced to identify specific exposures that may have caused their illness. This burden of proof makes it extraordinarily difficult for federal firefighters to qualify for workers comp and disability benefits related to their work.
The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) estimates this measure would improve benefits for more than 10,000 firefighters across the U.S.
The FY23 National Defense Authorization Act, in which Carbajal’s bill is included, was negotiated over recent months between bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate.
It is expected to pass the House later today, and the Senate in the coming weeks before being signed into law by President Biden before the end of the 117th Congress.
The Federal Firefighters Fairness Act of 2021 was introduced by Carbajal and Reps. Don Bacon (R-NE), Mark Takano (D-CA), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in April 2021. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are the lead sponsors of a bipartisan companion bill in the U.S. Senate.
Background on the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act:
Federal firefighters are regularly exposed to injury, disease and stress while protecting our national interests at military installations, nuclear facilities, VA hospitals, and other federal facilities. Numerous studies have found heart disease, lung disease, certain cancers, and other infectious diseases to be occupational hazards of firefighting.
In order to receive disability benefits under current federal law, federal firefighters are required to pinpoint the precise incident or exposure that caused a disease for it to be considered job-related. This burden of proof is extraordinarily difficult for firefighters to meet because they work in such a wide variety of environments and conditions.
California was the first state to pass a firefighter’s presumptive illness law in 1982. In 2019, Montana and Florida passed the same law making it 48 out of 50 states with health presumption laws for state and local firefighters. These laws do not cover federal firefighters.
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