Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate Tuesday would amend the Federal Employee Compensation Act to make it easier for firefighters who were injured or became ill as a result of their service to be covered by federal workers’ compensation.
Currently, federal law does not recognize certain occupational illnesses can result from employment in fire protection services. Federal firefighters are required to prove the conditions that led to their illness and their precise levels of exposure to qualify for disability retirement.
Firefighters experience a 14 percent increase in cancer-related deaths and a nine percent increase in cancer diagnoses when compared to the rest of the U.S. population, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
The Federal Firefighters Fairness Act of 2019 also requires NIOSH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to update Congress on the implementation of the legislation.
The act would put federal workers’ compensation benefits on par with 42 states that have enacted presumptive disability laws recognizing certain diseases and cancers contracted by firefighters are job-related.
The act has the support of the American Federation of Government Employees and the International Association of Federal Firefighters.
A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives.