12.03.09

Senate Committee Approves Leahy Bill To Extend Federal Death Payments To Nonprofit EMS Personnel

. . . Bill Named In Tribute To Bennington EMT Dale Long

WASHINGTON (Thursday, Dec. 3) – The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved legislation authored by U.S. 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, for coverage when they are killed or disabled in the line of duty.  Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the PSOB program, and he has successfully steered several PSOB improvements into law in recent years.

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.  The measure would qualify an estimated 1200 Vermont EMS personnel for the PSOB program, which is run by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Leahy said, “We have been working to fix this gap in coverage for some time, and the loss of Dale Long reminded everyone that first responders of many uniforms literally put their lives at risk every day.  These brave emergency professionals never let their communities down when a call comes in, and no one asks the lifesavers at an emergency scene whether they work for the federal government, a state government, a local government or a nonprofit agency.  This provision will erase that unnecessary distinction from the PSOB program.”

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.  The benefits now only apply 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 remedy this gap by extending the PSOB program to cover nonprofit EMS personnel who provide pre-hospital care.

Leahy also proposed his bill during Senate consideration of the annual appropriations bill for the Justice Department, but it was kept from that bill when cloture was required to overcome one of many Republican filibusters this year, which was stalling action on the bill.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is a cosponsor of the Leahy bill.

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