This week, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-NJ, introduced the “Honoring Our Fallen Heroes Act” with the support of U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla.
“This bipartisan legislation would expand access to federal support for the families of firefighters and first responders who pass away from cancer caused by carcinogenic exposure during their service. The bill would also extend disability benefits in cases where they become permanently and totally disabled due to cancer. Currently, firefighters are only eligible for support under the Public Safety Officer Benefits (PSOB) program for physical injuries sustained in the line-of-duty, or for deaths from duty-related heart attacks, strokes, mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and 9/11 related illnesses,” Gimenez’s office noted. “The Honoring Our Fallen Heroes Act would ensure that firefighters across the country are eligible to receive similar benefits under the federal PSOB program.”
The congressman’s office also offered more details on the proposal.
“The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program provides benefits to the survivors of fire fighters; federal, state, and local law enforcement officers; and other first responders who are killed as the result of injuries sustained in the line of duty. The program also provides disability benefits where first responders become permanently or totally disabled. The Public Safety Officers’ Educational Assistance (PSOEA) program, a component of the PSOB program, provides higher-education assistance to the children and spouses of public safety officers killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. The PSOB and PSOEA programs are administered by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA),” Gimenez’s office noted. “The Honoring our Fallen Heroes Act would expand access to federal support for the families of firefighters and first responders who pass away from cancer caused by carcinogenic exposure during their service. The bill would also extend disability benefits in cases where these first responders become permanently and totally disabled due to cancer.”
“As the only career firefighter paramedic serving in Congress and as the city of Miami’s very first Cuban American fire chief, it’s an honor and a duty to introduce the bipartisan Honoring Our Fallen Heroes Act,” said Gimenez, the only member of Congress who worked as a firefighter. “Our first responders go above and beyond the line of duty to protect the communities they serve and this legislation would guarantee that they have access to the life-saving care they rightfully deserve.”
“Day in and day out, our fire and police heroes perform some of the hardest jobs in the world with bravery,” said Pascrell. “First responders encounter many dangers on the job every single day, and tragically one of those is exposure to deadly carcinogens. The data is clear that fire fighters disproportionately face various cancer-related sickness and death. Our men and women in uniform face many similar hazards. This legislation will fix a hole in the law to make sure that first responders who get sick from their service receive their full federal benefits. In the year 2023, it’s past time our law fully recognized the dangers our heroes take to keep us safe.”
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.
Over in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Sens. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., are championing the proposal.
“Our firefighters put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe and are often exposed to carcinogens that can have lethal long-term effects. It’s unacceptable that firefighters who succumb to cancer from work-related exposure or become permanently and totally disabled don’t receive the same treatment as others who die in the line of duty,” said Klobuchar. “That’s why Senator Cramer and I are working to ensure that firefighters get the support they’ve earned. Our bipartisan legislation will honor the memory and sacrifice of St. Paul Fire Department Captain Michael Paidar and so many others who risk their lives in service of their communities.”
“Firefighters and first responders put their lives and health on the line every day and have an increased risk of receiving devastating diagnoses many years after exposure to carcinogens,” said Cramer. “Our bill expands benefits to include occupationally-connected cancers to care for those who protect our communities.”
The International Association of Fire Fighters, the Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Association of Police Organizations, National Volunteer Fire Council, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Congressional Fire Services Institute and Sergeants Benevolent Association of New York City are all backing the proposal.
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