02.17.11

Leahy Introduces Bill To Extend Public Safety Officers Benefits To Nonprofit EMS Personnel

Dale Long Emergency Medical Service Providers Protection Act Named For Bennington EMT

WASHINGTON (Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday introduced legislation to extend the federal Public Safety Officers Benefits (PSOB) program to paramedics and emergency medical technicians who work or volunteer for nonprofit ambulance services, and their families, when they are disabled or killed in the line of duty. 

The Dale Long Emergency Medical Service Providers Protection Act is named in honor of the Bennington emergency medical technician who was tragically killed in an ambulance accident in June 2009.  The measure would qualify an estimated 1200 Vermont EMS personnel for the PSOB program, which is run by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

“Dale Long died two years ago in a tragic, on-duty accident while treating and transporting a patient,” Leahy said.  “His tragic passing highlighted a major shortcoming in the current PSOB program, which Congress established more than 30 years ago to lend a hand to police officers, firefighters and medics who lose their lives or are disabled in the line of duty.”

Leahy continued, “The Dale Long Emergency Medical Service Provider Protection Act will correct this inequality in the law by extending the PSOB program to cover nonprofit EMS officers who provide emergency medical and ground or air ambulance service.  These emergency professionals protect and promote the public good of the communities they serve, and we should not unfairly penalize them and their families simply because they work or volunteer for a nonprofit organization.”

Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the PSOB program, and he has successfully steered several PSOB improvements into law during his time on the Judiciary Committee. 

Congress created the PSOB program more than three decades ago to provide tangible help to the surviving families of police, firefighters and medics who lose their lives or are disabled in the line of duty.  Under current law, the PSOB program applies only to public safety officers employed by federal, state, and local government entities.  With volunteers providing emergency medical service to many communities in Vermont and across the country, the Dale Long Emergency Medical Service Provider Protection Act would close this gap by extending the PSOB program to cover nonprofit EMS personnel who provide pre-hospital care. 

The legislation is supported by the American Ambulance Association, the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy

Introduction Of
The Dale Long Emergency Medical Service Provider Protection Act
February 17, 2011

Mr. President, today I again introduce legislation to correct an inequity in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Safety Officers Benefits (PSOB) Program, by extending benefits to nonprofit Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers who die or are disabled in the line of duty.  I am pleased to be joined in this effort by Senator Sanders and Senator Schumer.

The legislation is named after Dale Long, a long-time paramedic and shift supervisor with the Bennington Rescue Squad in Vermont.  Dale Long died two years ago in a tragic, on-duty accident while treating and transporting a patient.  He had a superb 25-year career as a Vermont paramedic.  He helped many, many people in ways they will never forget, and Dale Long will not be forgotten.

I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Dale in 2009 – less than two months before his death – when he was in Washington to receive the prestigious Star of Life Award from the American Ambulance Association.  Dale earlier had received Vermont's EMS Advanced Rescuer of the Year Award, in 2008.  In 2010, Dale was honored as part of the National EMS Memorial Service.

Dale’s tragic passing highlighted a major shortcoming in the current PSOB program, which Congress established more than 30 years ago to lend a hand to police officers, firefighters and medics who lose their lives or are disabled in the line of duty.  The current benefit only applies to public safety officers employed by a federal, state, or local government entity.  With many communities around the United States choosing to have their emergency medical services provided by nonprofit agencies, medics working for these nonprofit services unfortunately are not eligible for this help under the PSOB program.

Nonprofit public safety officers provide identical services to governmental officers and do so daily in the same dangerous environments.  With a renewed appreciation for the vital and timely community service of first responders since the national tragedy of September 11, 2001, more people are answering the call to serve their communities.  At the same time, more rescue workers are falling through the cracks of the PSOB program.

The Dale Long Emergency Medical Service Provider Protection Act will correct this inequality by extending the PSOB program to cover nonprofit EMS officers who provide emergency medical and ground or air ambulance service.  These emergency professionals protect and promote the public good of the communities they serve, and we should not unfairly penalize them and their families simply because they work or volunteer for a nonprofit organization. 

The modest cost of this remedy also is fully offset and will not add to the federal deficit.

This is a carefully crafted, commonsense remedy to a clear discrepancy in the law.  I am pleased with the widespread support this bill has earned.  Momentum continues to build for this solution, and I will keep at this effort until the Dale Long Emergency Medical Service Provider Protection Act becomes the law of the land. 

I thank several first responder organizations – including the American Ambulance Association, the National Association of EMTs, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the Fraternal Order of Police – for their support of this effort.

I ask unanimous consent that a copy of the bill be printed in the Record, and I yield the floor.

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