*Click here for video of Spanberger’s remarks on the U.S. House Floor*
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week, U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger honored Powhatan veteran Michael Lecik on the U.S. House Floor for his courage overseas and persistent advocacy on issues of veteran health at home. The speech was the first in a new series “Central Virginian of the Week,” which Spanberger will use to recognize and celebrate constituents who embody the 7th District’s values of excellence, kindness, courage, and service.
Lecik served as a military firefighter in the U.S. Air Force. He deployed twice to the Middle East, risking his life to protect and rescue servicemembers under the toughest of circumstances. The work military firefighters do exposes them to intensely carcinogenic, high-risk conditions. After his service ended in 2008, Lecik moved to Powhatan County with his wife Tiffany and their three children.
In February 2019, Lecik was diagnosed with multiple myeloma — a condition tied to the high-risk, carcinogenic workplace conditions that come with being a military firefighter. However, the Veterans Health Administration does not currently cover Lecik’s significant treatment costs, as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) — in many cases — does not recognize the direct service connection between firefighting and cancer as a presumptive service-connected disability beyond one year following active duty.
After hearing Lecik’s story, Spanberger coordinated with her constituent to craft a legislative solution. Earlier this month, she introduced the bipartisan Michael Lecik Military Firefighters Protection Act alongside U.S. Representative Don Bacon (R-NE-02), a U.S. Air Force veteran. This legislation would create the presumption that veteran firefighters who become disabled by serious diseases, such as cancer and lung disease, contracted the illness while serving in high-risk conditions in the military. By creating this presumption, the VA would be able to provide fair disability benefits and treatments to veteran firefighters like Lecik.
“Mike worked selflessly as a U.S. Air Force firefighter to keep our servicemen and women safe. He did so under dangerous, carcinogenic conditions, serving with courage and putting the needs of others before his own. After returning home to his community in Powhatan, Mike maintained this same commitment to the wellbeing of others,” said Spanberger. Since his diagnosis with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer linked to the carcinogenic conditions of his work, Mike has worked hard to ensure that other veteran firefighters are able to get the care and treatment they need. His thoughtful, persistent advocacy inspired legislative action in the U.S. House, and has touched the lives of dozens of veterans and their families across Virginia and the country. I thank Mike for his example, and I’m honored to recognize his efforts as our first ‘Central Virginian of the Week.’”
Read the full text of Spanberger’s remarks below:
Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to address the House for one minute and to revise and extend my remarks.
I rise today in recognition of the selflessness, courage, and resilience of my constituent Mike Lecik.
Mike served in the United States Air Force and deployed twice to the Middle East as a firefighter. After returning home to Powhatan County, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer linked to the carcinogenic conditions of his work.
The VA does not currently recognize the service connection between firefighting and diseases such as myeloma, leaving many veterans like Mike unable to get the care they need.
Since his diagnosis, Mike, and his wife Tiffany, and their family have demonstrated incredible strength, and I’m deeply inspired by his commitment to ensuring no other military firefighters face these same challenges.
In his service overseas and through his advocacy at home, Mike represents the best of Virginia’s 7th District.
Driven by his story, and in coordination with Mike, I recently introduced the Michael Lecik Military Firefighters Protection Act. This bill would recognize cancer, lung disease, and other serious illnesses as presumptive service-connected disabilities for our nation’s veteran military firefighters.
I thank Mike for his tireless work on this issue, and I thank my colleague Congressman Bacon for joining me in this effort to do right by thousands of veterans and their families – people like my constituent, Mike Lecik.
I yield back.