Once again, in the aftermath of yet another natural disaster -- Hurricane Sandy -- we see the sacrifice of first-line FEMA employees and how much we as a nation depend upon their expertise and commitment. Did you know that many of the brave FEMA first responders, who drop everything to help those in need, don’t even have insurance to care for themselves?
Thousands of our fellow citizens are on call year round, deployed at a moment's notice by FEMA to emergency and disaster areas. This now includes communities most affected by Hurricane Sandy. It is a high-stress job on many levels. FEMA itself notes that the lives of these employees (referred to as Disaster Assistance Employees, DAEs, or reservists) “can be exhausting, frustrating, challenging” and “the hours can be long and the conditions are sometimes difficult.”
I was shocked to learn that one of my good friends, who has worked as a FEMA reservist since 2003 and typically works over 300 days a year, receives no health benefits even as she sacrifices for the health of others. Many of these employees are afraid to speak out publicly for fear of losing their jobs, which they love. That’s why I am standing up for these courageous and selfless individuals, and call on FEMA and the Obama Administration to provide them with federal health benefits.
It’s worked before. I was inspired to create this petition by John Lauer, a wildland firefighter whose Change.org petition successfully pushed the Administration to provide healthcare benefits to firefighters like him who have similar employment circumstances.
It's time our FEMA workers and other first responders are prioritized when it comes to compensation and benefits. It's time we as a citizenry demand that our priorities are better reflected in the workforce and legislative decisions. Will you join me in calling for FEMA first responders to be provided with healthcare benefits? Please share this with your networks. We're using the Twitter hashtag #inthistogether for this effort. Thank you!