IAFF calls for occupational cancer to be classified as line-of-duty death


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The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) has announced its support for a new legislation introduced in the US Congress that would expand the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program to include coverage for firefighters who develop cancer as a result of their service.

The new classification would make surviving family members eligible for Public Safety Officer Benefits (PSOB), which is currently unavailable for cancer-related deaths. The PSOB program provides federal death and disability benefits to the families of first responders who die or become disabled in the line of duty due to on-the-job injuries and medical conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, and COVID-19.

General President Edward Kelly said: “When a firefighter dies due to occupational cancer – as St. Paul firefighter Mike Paidar did in 2020 – we owe it to them to ensure their families get the line-of-duty benefits they deserve.”

St. Paul, MN Local 21 member Mike Paidar died in 2020 from acute myeloid leukemia after being exposed to carcinogens on the job. His wife, Julie, successfully petitioned the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to classify her husband’s death as a line of duty. In a historic first for Minnesota, the Paidar family was awarded line-of-duty death benefits for occupational cancer.

The bill would extend benefits in cases where first responders become permanently and totally disabled due to cancer. The Honoring Our Fallen Heroes Act is co-sponsored in the Senate by Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar and North Dakota Republican Kevin Cramer. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). The legislation has the support of the country’s fire and police organizations.

“Firefighters and first responders put their lives and health on the line every day and have an increased risk of receiving devastating diagnoses many years after exposure to carcinogens,” said Cramer. “Our bill expands benefits to include occupationally-connected cancers to care for those who protect our communities.”

Gimenez added: “Our first responders go above and beyond the line of duty to protect the communities they serve, and this legislation would guarantee that they have access to the life-saving care they rightfully deserve.”

If passed, the bill would guarantee that families of fallen heroes who died from occupational cancers receive line-of-duty death benefits. The IAFF said it is optimistic that the Honoring Our Fallen Heroes Act will receive the necessary support from Congress.

“The IAFF is proud to support this bill and encourages Congress to act quickly to stand with the families of our fallen firefighters,” said Kelly. “It’s time to right this wrong.”

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