Agencies loosen rules on federal government disability benefits, and more

The Biden administration announced two initiatives in the past week aimed at making it easier for certain federal workers and veterans to receive disability benefits associated with chronic illnesses related to their job duties.

Last week, the Department of Labor announced a long-awaited easing of the burden of proof that federal firefighters bear to prove that an array of cancers and other long-term heart and lung conditions were caused by exposure to smoke and chemicals while fighting wildfires while claiming workers’ compensation. advantages.

Under the new policy, a federal firefighter who develops cancer or other chronic heart and lung disease and is applying for benefits under the Federal Employees Compensation Act will no longer have to provide evidence to prove that their condition was caused by a specific incident or exposure to hazardous materials, provided they were engaged in firefighting for at least five years and the conditions were diagnosed within 10 years of their last exposure.

Additionally, all federal firefighter workers’ compensation claims will be handled by a new Special Claims Unit within the Department of Labor, staffed by experts trained specifically in the issues firefighters face both on the job and in the workplace. of the claim for disability benefits.

Then on Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it was adding nine rare respiratory cancers associated with burn sites to the list of covered disabilities on a presumptive basis, in keeping with a promise made by President Biden during his speech on the state of the union.

Like the Department of Labor’s change, the new VA rule means veterans will no longer have to provide evidence linking their cancer to specific exposure to a burn pit while in the armed forces. The policy change affects all veterans who have spent time either in the Southwest Asia theater of operations since August 2, 1990, or in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Syria or Djibouti since August 19. September 2001.

The initiative covers both veterans’ future disability claims, as well as claims that had previously been denied due to lack of causal evidence. VA officials encouraged veterans to resubmit their rejected claims for review under the new policy.

A hockey game to benefit law enforcement survivors

FBI and US Secret Service employees will participate in a charity hockey game near Washington, DC on April 30, with proceeds going to a charity that helps the families of deceased federal workers and first responders.

Proceeds from the game, which will take place at the Washington Capitals’ practice facility in Arlington, Va., will go to Heroes Inc., a nonprofit that supports the spouses and children of law enforcement officers. public, firefighters and federal employees who died on the line of duty in the DC area.

The two agencies have regularly faced off in hockey since 2002, when officials proposed the idea as a benefit for those affected by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Over the past two decades, the agencies have raised between 200,000 $ and $250,000 for a variety of charities.

Brendan Westphal, captain of the Secret Service hockey team, said organizers hope to raise between $12,000 and $15,000 from ticket sales at this year’s game. Agency funds are not used to run the event, with players using their own money to rent ice time and pay referees.

“This year, special guests. . . at the ceremonial puck drop will be Hurricane, the retired [Secret Service] the special operations dog who was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 2022, and Wally, the FBI’s crisis-response dog,” an FBI spokesperson said.

Courtney Buble contributed to this column.

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