Courtney, Thompson, Pascrell Reintroduce Fire Police Fairness Act
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressmen Joe Courtney (CT-02), Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-15), and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09) reintroduced the Fire Police Fairness Act, bipartisan legislation that would extend public safety officer death benefits to fire police.
Fire police officers provide invaluable emergency response services in fourteen states across the United States, including Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. However, because there is no uniform national designation for fire police, many of these public servants face additional and unnecessary hurdles in accessing benefits that other public safety officers receive.
“Fire police across eastern Connecticut serve critical roles protecting both the public and their fellow public safety officers by securing the areas around dangerous emergencies,” said Congressman Courtney. “They respond alongside police and fire services, and put themselves in harm’s way to protect our communities. For more than forty years, the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program has provided peace of mind to public safety officers and their families with the assurance that our country will honor their service by providing certain benefits should they be killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. I am proud to once again introduce this legislation alongside Congressmen Thompson and Pascrell to ensure that fire police are eligible for these same benefits.”
“Having served as a volunteer firefighter and EMT, fire police have been critical during many emergency situations,” Congressman 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 Representatives Courtney and Pascrell to ensure that that fire police officers are covered under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program if they are injured on the job.”
“Fire police officers play a critical public safety role responding to emergencies in our communities,” said Rep. Pascrell. “Through a loophole in the current law, these heroes are denied the same benefits we rightfully provide our other first responders. This needs to change, and our legislation will make it so that fire police officers receive those very same benefits. Fire police officers save lives and we’re going to make sure we have their backs all the way.”
Congressman Courtney originally authored and introduced the Fire Police Fairness Act in 2011 after the Chief of the Gales Ferry Volunteer Fire Company, Anthony Saccone, brought the issue to Courtney’s attention. He has introduced the legislation each in each Congress since.
The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), which represents volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel, announced their support of the legislation in a letter published this afternoon. Click here to read their letter of support.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), which represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide, has also announced support for the Fire Police Fairness Act. Click here to read their letter of support.
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-Pascrell 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.