Bill to guarantee VA benefits for military firefighters named for Powhatan County man

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Michael Lecik, a former Air Force firefighter and assistant chief at the Huguenot Volunteer Fire Department, was diagnosed in 2019 with multiple myeloma, a condition tied to the high-risk, carcinogenic workplace conditions that come with being a military firefighter.

The VA refused to recognize the service connection of his illness and repeatedly denied him benefits.

Lecik passed away last year.

In his memory, Seventh District Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger is leading a group of Democrats and Republicans in pressing the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee to bring forward bipartisan legislation to make sure veteran firefighters with serious diseases receive the VA benefits they deserve.

The Michael Lecik Military Firefighters Protection Act would provide America’s veteran firefighters with the fair compensation, healthcare and retirement benefits they’ve earned through their service.

In a letter sent to leaders of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, Spanberger, Bacon, and 11 of their colleagues urged the Committee to quickly pass this legislation and recognize the service connection of several diseases faced by veteran firefighters — including heart disease, lung disease, and certain cancers.

“A failure to extend this recognition of this service connection to our military firefighters would be a dereliction of our duty to those who put their lives on the line for our country,” said Spanberger and her colleagues. “Currently, the Veterans Administration (VA) does not recognize the direct service connection between military firefighting and cancer as a service-connected disability. As a result, the Veterans Health Administration continues to deny benefits to veteran firefighters suffering from cancer and other illnesses that are clearly linked to their service.”

They continued, “It is past time that both federal firefighters and veteran firefighters receive the benefits they deserve. The next step toward making that a reality would be for the U.S. House Veterans Committee to consider the Michael Lecik Military Firefighters Protection Act. This bipartisan bill would create a presumptive service connection for military firefighters, acknowledging the same harm Congress acknowledged when we passed the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act.”

Spanberger’s latest push is backed by the International Association of Fire Fighters.

“Military firefighters serve the critical function of protecting our nation’s vital military installations, our nation’s warriors, and their families. For too long, the Veterans Administration has denied military fire fighters health benefits when they fall victim to occupational cancers, and heart and lung disease despite scientific links between firefighting and these deadly diseases,” said Edward A. Kelly, general president, International Association of Fire Fighters. “The IAFF proudly supports the Michael Lecik Military Firefighters Protection Act, which is named after a fallen IAFF member. This must pass bill would grant former military fire fighters VA health benefits for occupational diseases that are on par with the protections 49 states provide for their local and state fire fighters.”


AFP

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