Courtney, Thompson Launch Bipartisan Push for Fire Police Benefits
Washington, DC -- Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT-2) and Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA-5) introduced the Fire Police Fairness Act, bipartisan legislation that would extend public safety officer death benefits to fire police. Fire police officers provide unique and varying emergency response services in several states, including Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Because there is no uniform national designation for fire police, many of these public servants face additional hurdles in accessing benefits that other public safety officers receive.
“In towns across eastern Connecticut, fire police are first on the scene right along with police, firefighters and EMTs,” said Courtney. “They put themselves at risk to respond to emergencies, and it is only right that they receive the same benefits as other public safety officers. This bill would make sure that fire police, and their families, get the benefits they earn and deserve. I am proud to join my friend Congressman Thompson in introducing this bill today with strong bipartisan support, and look forward to working with him to get this done for those who put themselves in harm’s way for our communities.”
“Having served as a volunteer firefighter and EMT, fire police have been critical during many emergency situations,” Thompson said. “All first responders work side-by-side to keep the general public safe and I believe our fire police should have access to the benefits they have earned through their service. I am pleased to introduce this bill with Representative Courtney, to ensure that our emergency personnel receive the same benefits as other public safety officers for putting themselves in harm’s way to protect the public.”
The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), which represents volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel, is also supporting the measure. Click here to read their letter of support.
“The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) strongly supports the Fire Police Fairness Act,” said NVFC Chair Kevin D. Quinn. “Fire police officers perform a vital public safety function, carrying out traffic incident management duties at emergency scenes. In those rare, unfortunate instances in which fire police officers are killed or become permanently disabled as a result of an injury suffered in the line of duty, they should be eligible for the same benefits as any other public safety officer.”
The bill is was introduced today with strong bipartisan support, including Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Daniel M. Donovan, Jr. (R-NY), Elizabeth H. Esty (D-CT), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Brian T. Fitzpatrick (R-PA), James A. Himes (D-CT), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), John B. Larson (D-CT), Frank A. LoBiondo (R-NJ), David B. McKinley (R-WV), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Darren Soto (D-FL), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).
The Public Safety Officer’s Benefit (PSOB) program provides a one-time benefit to eligible survivors of public safety officers whose deaths were the direct and proximate result of an injury sustained in the line of duty. It also provides a one-time benefit to eligible public safety officers who were permanently and totally disabled as a result of a catastrophic injury sustained in the line of duty.
While fire police can be deemed eligible on a case by case basis for some of these benefits, they are not automatically considered to be eligible to submit a claim despite the important role they play in emergency response. This lack of clarity causes many cases to drag on for several years, as the needed review is done at the Department of Justice.
The Courtney-Thompson bill would allow the families of Fire Police officers to be automatically considered eligible for those same benefits, and then subject to the same evaluation as other responders under the PSOB as to whether the death was service-connected. While this legislation does not require the Department of Justice to ensure that all Fire Police deaths are covered, it clarifies the eligibility of these public safety officers to be considered for these benefits.