Senate Adopts Leahy-Authored Provision Extending Public Safety Officers Benefits To Nonprofit EMS Personnel

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

WASHINGTON (Feb. 18, 2011) – The Senate Thursday night approved legislation authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) 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 legislation was adopted as an amendment to the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act. 

“I’m glad that all the work to get the Dale Long Act into law is finally gaining traction,” said Leahy.  “The plain and simple goal of this bill is to update a program that has helped permanently disabled or fatally injured first responders and their survivors for over three decades.  The only change I have proposed is to cover emergency rescue workers with nonprofit EMS services.  These are hardworking people in our communities who put their skills, their training and their lives on the line for us every day.  With the need as clear as it is, it is difficult to explain to them, and to Dale Long’s family, why anyone would want to block this.  I have brought this to the Senate floor many times before, and now that it has passed the Senate I will keep going forward until this goal is met.”

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. 

Also on Thursday, Leahy introduced the bill as a standalone measure.  He stated his commitment to seeing the measure enacted.  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.  He successfully steered the bill through the Judiciary Committee in 2009, but the full Senate did not take up the measure.

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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