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H.R. 2499: Federal Firefighters Fairness Act of 2022


The text of the bill below is as of May 11, 2022 (Passed the House).


IB

117th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. R. 2499

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

AN ACT

To amend chapter 81 of title 5, United States Code, to create a presumption that a disability or death of a Federal employee in fire protection activities caused by any of certain diseases is the result of the performance of such employees duty, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act of 2022.

2.

Certain diseases presumed to be work-related cause of disability or death for Federal employees in fire protection activities

(a)

Presumption relating to employees in fire protection activities

Subchapter I of chapter 81 of title 5, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 8143a the following:

8143b.

Employees in fire protection activities.

(a)

Certain diseases deemed to be proximately caused by employment in fire protection activities

(1)

In general

For a claim under this subchapter of disability or death of an employee who has been employed for a minimum of 5 years in aggregate as an employee in fire protection activities, a disease specified on the list established under paragraph (2) shall be deemed to be proximately caused by the employment of such employee.

(2)

Establishment of initial list

There is established under this section the following list of diseases:

(A)

Bladder cancer.

(B)

Brain cancer.

(C)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

(D)

Colorectal cancer.

(E)

Esophageal cancer.

(F)

Kidney cancer.

(G)

Leukemias.

(H)

Lung cancer.

(I)

Mesothelioma.

(J)

Multiple myeloma.

(K)

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

(L)

Prostate cancer.

(M)

Skin cancer (melanoma).

(N)

A sudden cardiac event or stroke while, or not later than 24 hours after, engaging in the activities described in subsection (b)(1)(C).

(O)

Testicular cancer.

(P)

Thyroid cancer.

(3)

Additions to the list

(A)

In general

The Secretary shall periodically review the list established under this section in consultation with the Director of the National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health and shall add a disease to the list by rule, upon a showing by a petitioner or on the Secretary’s own determination, in accordance with this paragraph.

(B)

Basis for determination

The Secretary shall add a disease to the list upon a showing by a petitioner or the Secretary’s own determination, based on the weight of the best available scientific evidence, that there is a significant risk to employees in fire protection activities of developing such disease.

(C)

Available expertise

In determining significant risk for purposes of subparagraph (B), the Secretary may accept as authoritative and may rely upon recommendations, risk assessments, and scientific studies (including analyses of National Firefighter Registry data pertaining to Federal firefighters) by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Toxicology Program, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

(4)

Petitions to add to the list

(A)

In general

Any person may petition the Secretary to add a disease to the list under this section.

(B)

Content of petition

Such petition shall provide information to show that there is sufficient evidence of a significant risk to employees in fire protection activities of developing such illness or disease from their employment.

(C)

Timely and substantive decisions

Not later than 18 months after receipt of a petition, the Secretary shall either grant or deny the petition by publishing in the Federal Register a written explanation of the reasons for the Secretary’s decision. The Secretary may not deny a petition solely on the basis of competing priorities, inadequate resources, or insufficient time for review.

(D)

Notification to Congress

Not later than 30 days after making any decision to approve or deny a petition under this paragraph, the Secretary shall notify the Committee on Education and Labor of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs of the Senate of such decision.

(b)

Definitions

In this section:

(1)

Employee in fire protection activities

The term employee in fire protection activities means an employee employed as a firefighter, paramedic, emergency medical technician, rescue worker, ambulance personnel, or hazardous material worker, who—

(A)

is trained in fire suppression;

(B)

has the legal authority and responsibility to engage in fire suppression;

(C)

is engaged in the prevention, control, and extinguishment of fires or response to emergency situations where life, property, or the environment is at risk, including the prevention, control, suppression, or management of wildland fires; and

(D)

performs such activities as a primary responsibility of his or her job.

(2)

Secretary

The term Secretary means Secretary of Labor.

.

(b)

Research cooperation

Not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Labor shall establish a process by which a Federal employee in fire protection activities filing a claim related to a disease on the list established by section 8143b of title 5, United States Code, will be informed about and offered the opportunity to contribute to science by voluntarily enrolling in the National Firefighter Registry or a similar research or public health initiative conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(c)

Agenda for Further Review

Not later than 3 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall—

(1)

evaluate the best available scientific evidence of the risk to an employee in fire protection activities of developing breast cancer, gynecological cancer, and rhabdomyolysis;

(2)

add breast cancer, gynecological cancer, and rhabdomyolysis to the list established under section 8143b of title 5, United States Code, by rule in accordance with subsection (a)(3) of such section, if the Secretary determines that such evidence supports such addition; and

(3)

submit a report of the Secretary’s findings under paragraph (1) and the Secretary’s determination under paragraph (2) to the Committee on Education and Labor of the House and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate.

(d)

Report on Federal wildland firefighters

The Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health shall conduct a comprehensive study on long-term health effects that Federal wildland firefighters who are eligible to receive workers’ compensation under chapter 81 of title 5, United States Code, experience after being exposed to fires, smoke, and toxic fumes when in service. Such study shall include—

(1)

the race, ethnicity, age, gender, and time of service of such Federal wildland firefighters participating in the study; and

(2)

recommendations to Congress on what legislative actions are needed to support such Federal wildland firefighters in preventing health issues from this toxic exposure, similar to veterans that are exposed to burn pits.

(e)

Application

The amendments made by this section shall apply to claims for compensation filed on or after the date of enactment of this Act.

(f)

Report on affected employees

Beginning 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall include in each annual report on implementation of the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act program and issues arising under it that the Secretary makes pursuant to section 8152 of title 5, United States Code, the total number and demographics of employees with diseases and conditions described in the amendments made by this Act as of the date of such annual report, disaggregated by the specific condition or conditions, for the purposes of understanding the scope of the problem. The Secretary may include any information they deem necessary and, as appropriate, may make recommendations for additional actions that could be taken to minimize the risk of adverse health impacts for Federal employees in fire protection activities.

3.

Subrogation of continuation of pay

(a)

Subrogation of the United States

Section 8131 of title 5, United States Code, is amended—

(1)

in subsection (a), by inserting continuation of pay or before compensation; and

(2)

in subsection (c), by inserting continuation of pay or before compensation already paid.

(b)

Adjustment after recovery from a third person

Section 8132 of title 5, United States Code, is amended—

(1)

by inserting continuation of pay or before compensation the first and second place it appears;

(2)

by striking in his behalf and inserting on his behalf;

(3)

by inserting continuation of pay and before compensation the third place it appears; and

(4)

by striking the 4th sentence and inserting the following: If continuation of pay or compensation has not been paid to the beneficiary, the money or property shall be credited against continuation of pay or compensation payable to him by the United States for the same injury..

4.

Protection of firefighters from toxic chemicals and other contaminants

(a)

In general

Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to the Committee on Education and Labor of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate a report that evaluates the health and safety impacts on employees engaged in fire protection activities that result from the employees’ exposure to toxic chemicals and other contaminants that could cause human health problems. The report may include information on—

(1)

the degree to which such programs and policies include consideration of the possibility of toxic exposure of such employees who may come into contact with residue from fibers, combusted building materials such as asbestos, household chemicals, polymers, flame-retardant chemicals, and other potentially toxic contaminants;

(2)

the availability and proper maintenance of professional protective equipment and secure storage of such equipment in employees’ homes and automotive vehicles;

(3)

the availability of home instructions for employees regarding toxins and contaminants, and the appropriate procedures to counteract exposure to same;

(4)

the employees’ interests in protecting the health and safety of family members from exposure to toxic chemicals and other contaminants to which the employees may have been exposed; and

(5)

other related factors.

(b)

Context

In preparing the report required under subsection (a), the Comptroller General of the United States may, as appropriate, provide information in a format that delineates high risk urban areas from rural communities.

(c)

Department of Labor Consideration

After issuance of the report required under subsection (a), the Secretary of Labor shall consider such report’s findings and assess its applicability for purposes of the amendments made by section 2.

5.

Increase in time-period for FECA claimant to supply supporting documentation to Office of Worker’s Compensation

Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Labor shall—

(1)

amend section 10.121 of title 20, Code of Federal Regulations, by striking 30 days and inserting 60 days; and

(2)

modify the Federal Employees Compensation Act manual to reflect the changes to such section made by the Secretary pursuant to paragraph (1).

Passed the House of Representatives May 11, 2022.

Cheryl L. Johnson,

Clerk.