Congresswoman Sutton and Senator Brown highlight support for injured firefighters
Elyria, OH, August 29, 2007: Last week, Congresswoman Betty Sutton and Senator Sherrod Brown stood with local leaders, firefighters and firefighter advocates to call for legislation ensuring proper care for firefighters who become ill.
Brown and Sutton are both co-sponsors of the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act, which would provide important protections to the nation’s approximately 12,000 federal firefighters.
“Our nation’s fire fighters—whether federal or municipal—are at the front lines of homeland security efforts. These brave men and women put their lives on the line for us every day. It is our duty to ensure they get the benefits they’ve earned. It’s the very least we should do,” Brown said.
“There are established links between firefighting and certain diseases and illnesses, including certain types of cancer, heart and lung disease, and infectious diseases,” Sutton said. “What we are calling for is common sense protection for our first responders who become sick protecting our families. When this happens, we have an obligation to provide them the benefits they deserve.”
Acknowledging the link between firefighting and certain health conditions, 40 states have passed some form of “presumptive disability” laws. These statutes create a presumption that firefighters who become disabled by certain illnesses and diseases contracted the condition on the job, unless it can be proven otherwise, for the purposes of workers compensation and disability retirement.
In Ohio, presumptive disability law protects firefighters who become disabled with heart disease and lung disease.
Despite presumptive disability protection for many of America’s municipal firefighters, the approximately 12,000 federal firefighters are without any such protections. Federal firefighters protect the nation’s national parks and national forests from raging forest fires, as well as protecting military installations, nuclear facilities, VA hospitals and other federal facilities, often working side-by-side with municipal firefighters.
The Federal Firefighters Fairness Act would provide presumptive disability protection to federal firefighters suffering from certain types of cancer, heart and lung disease, and certain infectious diseases.
Joining Senator Brown and Congresswoman Sutton were Ohio State Representative Matt Lundy from Elyria , Tim Kling, a retired Akron firefighter and cancer survivor, and advocate Kara Afrates, daughter of a firefighter who died of cancer. They discussed efforts at the state and local level to care for firefighters who become ill because of exposures at work.
The event was held at Lorain County Community College’s Spitzer Conference Center in Elyria , Ohio, and was attended by a large number of local firefighters. The Federal Firefighters Fairness Act is endorsed by the International Association of Firefighters.