Senators Klobuchar, Cramer lead bill to expand benefits for firefighters diagnosed with cancer on the job


UNITED STATES (KVRR) — Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota are leading a bill to expand Public Safety Officer benefits for firefighters across the country.

“Across this nation, firefighters are there for us without hesitation. They’re there for us day or night, 24/7. They’re there when we need them and it’s my hope and ask that we are there for them and their families when they need us,” says advocate Julie Paidar.

The Honoring Our Fallen Heroes Act expands federal support to families of firefighters and other first responders who died from cancer caused by exposure to carcinogens while on the job.

“We as people, society, civilization; doing what is right by each other. We should certainly be doing right by those families that suffer the loss of a loved one because of the sacrifices they made on behalf of the very public that they swore in order to serve. Righting this wrong, with the Honor bill would go a long, long way towards bringing some measure of comfort to those that are lost so much,” says Edward A. Kelly, the President of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

The bill extends disability benefits in cases where firefighters become permanently or totally disabled due to cancer.

“Cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters, according to the CDC. Firefighters can be exposed to hundreds of potential carcinogens when responding to fires. It’s only right that we treat cancer caused by on-the-job exposure, and that’s what this would be, it has to be on the job exposure, the same way we treat other physical injuries,” says Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Currently, firefighters are not eligible for federal Public Safety Officer Benefits for job-related cancers.

“For firefighters in general, it seems like these things collect over time in your bodies. When you’re young, it doesn’t hurt you as much but it seems as you get older, and about the time you’re going to retire or plan on making plans for the future, it seems like that’s when this stuff catches up to us,” says Capt. Eric Eisenlohr of the Fargo Fire Department.

The legislation was introduced in honor of Michael Paidar, St. Paul fire captain who died of an aggressive form of Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2020.

“Throughout the entire process of Mike being sick, our mantra was that no matter how bad things got, there’s always somebody enduring something else worse and it’s true and helps me keep perspective. I’ve always said, ‘this is not just for Mike, this is for others so hopefully something good can come out of our heartache,” said Paidar.

Senator Cramer says it’s important to recognize the volunteer firefighters that are also included in the legislation because they take the same risks.

Categories: Health, Minnesota News, Moorhead, North Dakota News