Bipartisan Bill Aims to Support Firefighters Diagnosed With Cancer
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan Senate bill would expand access to federal support for the families of firefighters and first responders who died as a result of carcinogenic exposure during their service.
The bill introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., would also extend disability benefits in cases where firefighters and first responders become permanently and totally disabled due to cancer.
Currently, firefighters are only eligible for support under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits 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.
Bipartisan companion legislation in the House is being led by Reps. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., and Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla.
“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,” Cramer said. “Our bill expands benefits to include occupationally connected cancers to care for those who protect our communities.”
The legislation was introduced in honor of Michael Paidar, a Maple Grove and St. Paul, Minnesota, fire captain who died of an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia on Aug. 26, 2020.
In 2021, after strong advocacy from the Paidar family, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety awarded line-of-duty benefits to his widow Julie, the first time that a firefighter’s family had received benefits for cancer incurred in the line of duty through Minnesota’s state public safety benefits program.
The Honoring Our Fallen Heroes Act would ensure that firefighters across the country are eligible to receive similar benefits under the federal PSOB program.
“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,” Klobuchar said.
“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,” she continued.
“That’s why Sen. Cramer and I are working to ensure that firefighters get the support they’ve earned,” she said.
The legislation is endorsed by the International Association of Fire Fighters, as well as 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.
Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue