U.S. Representatives SaludCarbajal (D-CA) and Mark Takano (D-CA) have reintroduced legislation in Congress to provide presumptive disability coverage for federal fighters suffering from cancer, heart and lung diseases. The bill, H.R. 1884, the Federal Firefighter Fairness Act, is a step forward in the IAFF’s long-standing quest to bring presumptive coverage for occupational cancer and heart disease to federal members.
"I am grateful that Representatives Carbajal and Takano have championed this important bill and I look forward to working with them to ensure its passage in the 115th Congress,” says General President Harold Schaitberger.
Once enacted, the law will presume that a limited number of cancers or heart and lung disease are the result of an accepted occupational disease. No longer will a federal fire fighter have to demonstrate that the proximate cause of the disease is directly related to their duties while simultaneously battling the disease.
Expressing support for the bill and the need for presumptive disability laws, 16th District Vice President James Johnson says, “Every fire fighter knows that cancer, heart and lung disease are a scourge on our industry. Today, these diseases are the leading causes of line-of-duty death among fire fighters. It’s time that the federal sector workers’ compensation law reflects what we all already know as federal fire fighter claims are adjudicated.”
A version of this bill has been introduced in every Congress since 2001. While there has been support from members of Congress, none of the bills has made it to the finish line for signing by the president. The IAFF will continue to vigorously pursue passage of this bill.
The 2017 fight to repeal the ill-conceived Cadillac Tax began this week when Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Mike Kelly (R-PA) introduced legislation, the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act of 2017 (HR 173), that would eliminate the 40 percent tax on employer-provided health care. The IAFF had partnered with Representative Courtney in the last Congress to successfully delay the tax until 2019, and this bill marks the continued effort towards permanent elimination.
“It is a significant marker that legislation repealing the Cadillac tax is among the first bills introduced in the new Congress,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “H.R. 173 is the next step towards repealing a tax that fire fighters didn’t want and from which fire fighters don’t benefit.”
The IAFF has long opposed any attempt to tax employer-provided health care. IAFF members place a high premium on the health benefits for which they sacrifice, and understand that taxing their health care dollars severely weakens that benefit. During the debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the IAFF led the fight to preserve the employer-provided health insurance exclusion. Although successful in beating back efforts to cap the exclusion, the final bill contained the now infamous Cadillac tax, billed as an alternative way to reduce costs. At the time, the IAFF successfully weakened the provision by including a higher threshold for public safety workers, but has continued its work to eliminate the tax completely.
As the new Congress is sworn in, one of the first items on the Republican majority’s agenda is to repeal a significant portion of the ACA, which may include the Cadillac Tax. However, opponents of this tax cannot assume anything when it comes to the agenda of this new Congress, and must remain focused on supporting HR 173.
The IAFF will continue to advocate for HR 173 in order to highlight the importance of repealing this dangerous tax and more broadly opposing any tax on worker’s health care benefits.
Efforts are underway in the Senate to introduce a companion bill early this year.
For years, affiliates have battled politicians who make decisions on how many fire fighters a community has, based on budget figures developed by number crunchers. In most cases, this flawed approach leaves the community short of the number of fire fighters needed to successfully protect the residents and businesses they serve.
In past decades, there were very few tools to make credible arguments in debates on this issue – beyond our own experience. But over the past few years, the IAFF has been leading the charge on scientific research to help community leaders better understand how to best protect the taxpaying public.
NFPA 1710 is the internationally accepted standard on minimum crew size and operational staffing for career fire departments. Telling the 1710 story is difficult, even to IAFF members but this video can be the key to start a discussion.
A new explainer video on the NFPA 1710 Standard – an essential tool for conveying the message that proper staffing levels are essential for keeping your community safe - promotes the science of fire fighting and educating policy makers through leaders and the media in your community.