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Bill would increase workers comp benefits for federal firefighters

Bill would increase workers comp benefits for federal firefighters

A Montana lawmaker wants to change the way workers compensation is calculated for federal wildlands firefighters who are injured on the job by basing payments on overall pay rather than base pay without overtime. 

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., on Thursday introduced S. 3544, the Wildland Firefighter Retirement and Disability Compensation Benefits Act of 2016, that would factor in overtime pay in calculating how much money an injured firefighter is paid under the workers comp system, among other changes to the way workers comp affects U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighters. 

Currently, comp payments are calculated using only base pay.

According to a statement from Sen. Daines’ office, “overtime pay constitutes a significant portion of wildland firefighter compensation” and not factoring a firefighter’s entire income when calculating workers comp hurts families. 

The bill would also allow injured firefighters and law enforcement reassigned to nonhazardous jobs to continue on their original retirement track of 20 years, instead of the current law that changes their mandatory years of service of 30 years after a post-injury reassignment to lighter duty. 

Vicki Minor, executive director for the Boise, Idaho-based Wildland Firefighter Foundation, said the proposed legislation would ensure firefighters get the financial support they need. “When firefighters regularly work 10 to 14-hour days for 14 days straight, the overtime pay is part of their family budget,” she said in a statement.




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