Seeking to close a gap separating state, county, and municipal firefighters from federal firefighters, the Federal Firefighter Fairness Act of 2021 (HR 2499) is a bipartisan push to grant access to federal, job-related disability and retirement benefits for injuries and diseases contracted in the line of duty.
“Our federal firefighters put their lives on the line each day to serve communities and protect wildlands across the nation,” U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) said. Fitzpatrick is a co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a congressional group that recently endorsed the legislation. “Federal fighters who suffer from deadly cancer and disease caused by their line of work should have access to the same disability and retirement benefits as fellow firefighters serving on the state and local level.”
Under the current law, federal firefighters have to identify the exact incident or exposure that caused injury or illness for it to be considered job-related and benefits-applicable. Instead, the Federal Firefighter Fairness Act would establish a number of diseases as auto-triggers for compensation and disability retirement benefits, including lung diseases and certain cancers.
“I thank my bipartisan colleagues in the Problem Solvers Caucus for endorsing my bill, the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act,” U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), one of the bill’s writers, said. “As scientists predict that wildfires will continue to increase in frequency and severity, it is more important than ever that Congress grant federal firefighters the same health and disability benefits that their local and state counterparts receive.”
Federal firefighters are often called on to address problems at military installations, VA hospitals, and national parks. Supporters of the change to their benefits include the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).