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‘All’ Emergency Medical Workers ‘Should Be Eligible’ For Federal Benefits Program

Published Thursday, May 28, 2020
by Raju Chebium & Pete Levine/AFSCME News
‘All’ Emergency Medical Workers ‘Should Be Eligible’ For Federal Benefits Program

Paramedics, Emergency Medical Technicians and other Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Workers put their lives on the line for their communities, a fact that’s becoming amply clear during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

EMS Professionals working for government agencies and private companies are saving lives and many are dying or getting seriously injured on the job.

Under the Federal Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB), only the family members of First Responders employed by the government or non-profits who die in the line of duty are eligible to receive Survivor Benefits.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is fighting to broaden PSOB to include all EMS Workers so their survivors are not left out in the cold - an effort that has greater significance during National EMS Week.

Jason Brollini, the Executive Director of United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911, recently wrote to the Justice Department, which administers PSOB, seeking “equity and clear inclusion for EMS Professionals employed by a for-profit rescue squad or ambulance provider.”

“At times we can be overlooked and undervalued in our vital role.  Therefore, we seek clear inclusion to the same benefits as other Public Safety Officers and First Responders so we at least know that should tragedy befall us, our survivors and dependents will be afforded same support, relief and opportunities,” Brollini wrote.

However, under a Justice Department interpretation, Members of Local 4911, most of whom are employed by the Nation’s largest private ambulance company, American Medical Response (AMR), are not eligible for the PSOB.

In response, AFSCME is working to persuade Congress to do the right thing for these vital EMS Professionals. 

In addition, AFSCME has launched a grassroots campaign to push Congress to include all EMS Workers in the PSOB.

AFSCME is also advocating for all Public Safety Officers and First Responders who succumb to COVID-19 so they don’t have to jump through unnecessary hoops to prove that they contracted the virus in the line of duty in order to receive support. 

U.S. Representative Jerrod Nadler (Democrat-New York), who serves as the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has introduced the Public Safety Officer Pandemic Response Act of 2020 (H.R. 6509).

This Bill ensures that if Public Safety Professionals become disabled or die from COVID-19, it will be presumed to be in the line of duty and their families will be eligible for benefits through PSOB.

Of the 1.4 million Members of AFSCME, nearly 100,000 work in public safety, emergency medical services and first response.

Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic, these Front Line Heroes have shouldered added risk to their already dangerous jobs.

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