|SCHUMER: EXTEND DEATH BENEFITS
TO FAMILIES OF FIREFIGHTERS & COPS WHO DIE OF HEART ATTACK OR STROKE
IN THE LINE OF DUTY
Current loophole denies federal death benefits to families of fire and police who die from stroke and heart attack while on the job; Benefits send almost $300,000 to other fallen heroes' families each year
Schumer: Current standard for death benefits for firefighters and police dying "in the line of duty" ignores the tremendous stress and strain that first responders are under when responding to a call to action; Should include strokes and heart attacks
Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced his support of a bill to extend federal benefits to the survivors of career and volunteer firefighters, police officers and other first responders killed by heart attacks or strokes while on duty. Schumer said that the current standard denying benefits to these survivors ignores the tremendous stress and strain that burdens our firefighters and police.
"It was true before September 11, it was true on September 11, and it's
true after September 11. Our firefighters and police are all heroes, and
the tremendous physical and emotional pressure that accompanies them every
hour on duty is enormous," Schumer said. "“One of the enduring legacies of
September 11 is our reinforced appreciation for the work that our
firefighters, police officers and emergency personnel do on a daily basis,
and sadly how real the danger of their work is to both them and their
families. Extending these benefits to their family is something concrete
we can do for these heroes and their families."
The Public Safety Officers Benefits Program (PSOB), established in
1976, currently provides approximately $262,000 in benefits to the
families of law enforcement officers, firemen, emergency response squad
members, and ambulance crew members who are killed in the line of duty.
Schumer said this narrow standard ignores the tremendous stress and strain that first responders are under when they respond to a call, and begin heavy physical exertion, at a moment's notice. Firefighters routinely carry an additional fifty pounds of equipment up flights of stairs, all before they actually begin chopping down doors with axes or maneuver water filled hose. A police officer might be called on to chase a suspect for blocks with little warning.
“To say that a firefighter, who tragically suffers a fatal heart attack after fighting a fire, must also have a broken bone, or smoke in his or her lungs, in order for their family to be eligible to receive death benefits, is simply ridiculous," Schumer said. "Are they any less of a hero because their bone wasn't broken? The current standard is either an oversight, or else it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the work our first responders perform.”
Schumer said the Hometown Heroes bill, introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, will fix the loophole to ensure that the surviving families of first responders who die of heart attacks or strokes in the line of duty or within 24 hours of a triggering incident while on duty are eligible to receive financial assistance, regardless of whether a traumatic injury is present.
Firefighters, police officers and first responders across the nation have rallied in support of the legislation. Over 40 associations, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Fire Protection Association, the National Association of State Fire Marshals, the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, and the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs all support the measure.