HOMELAND PREPAREDNESS NEWS, DAVE KOVALESKI
U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) introduced a bill to provide veteran firefighters with improved compensation and benefits.
The Michael Lecik Military Firefighters Protection Act would protect veteran firefighters who become disabled by serious diseases—including heart disease, lung disease, and certain cancers. It would create the assumption that these illnesses were contracted while the veterans served in the military. By doing this, the Veteran’s Administration (VA) would be able to provide equitable disability benefits and treatment cost coverage to veteran firefighters.
The bill is named after Michael Lecik, a former U.S. Air Force firefighter who was twice deployed to the Middle East. In February 2019, Lecik was diagnosed with multiple myeloma—a condition tied to his service as a military firefighter. However, the Veterans Health Administration does not currently cover Lecik’s significant treatment costs to the extent that the VA would. This bill would allow them to receive VA benefits.
“Military firefighters put their lives on the line each day—not just to defend our country, but also to selflessly defend their fellow service members. In the wake of his diagnosis, Mike and his family have demonstrated incredible strength, kindness, and bravery—traits he has always demonstrated in a life of service to others. He truly represents the best of the Seventh District, and his strength is an example and inspiration to me. Mike is selflessly committed to making sure that other military firefighters don’t face the same challenges he has, and I am proud of our work together on this legislation,” Spanberger said.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), a U.S. Air Force veteran, co-sponsored the bill.
“I’ve served with hundreds of courageous and selfless military firefighters during my three decades in the Air Force. They were willing to pull us out of burning jets or carry us out of buildings engulfed in flames. In doing so, many came into contact with toxic substances and fumes,” Bacon said. “Our military firefighters deserve the same protections that other firefighters receive in our country by creating the presumption that those who become disabled from serious disease contracted the illness while serving in the military. This legislation ensures proper VA care.”
U.S. firefighters are more likely to suffer certain diseases and illnesses as a result of their career—and they experience higher rates of cancer than the general U.S. population, according to a 2010 study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
“I was proud to serve my country as a military firefighter, and following my service, I was equally proud to build a life in Powhatan County with my wife and three girls. Since the diagnosis last year, I’ve been incredibly humbled by the outpouring of support from our neighbors across the Powhatan Community. But still, the rising costs associated with my diagnosis have made things difficult, especially as my condition is not recognized as service-connected by the VA,” Lecik said. “As a military firefighter, you take on massive amounts of risk, and you hope your country has your back.”