National Benefits for Disabled First Responders
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After serving the public for 10 years in California as a paramedic/firefighter, I was injured on the job ending the career I loved. I also suffered from PTSD when it was "just a veterans issue." I never received a disability retirement because my time was split between two retirement systems, didn't dare fight for a PTSD claim in workers comp court because they make it hell to get an award not worth much, went on COBRA to pay my medical bills - and racked up more bills because workers comp wouldn't cover non-pharmacological/alternative treatment for pain control, took on loads of student loan debt to earn a BS & MBA to get hired in corporate, and lost my home when I was in severe pain fighting two cities who weren't paying me while the lawyers stalled my case for 7 years blaming each side for my injury and missing court dates. Worse, a firefighter I knew killed himself, another addicted to pain meds, one dead from cancer in his 40's, and another dead on Thanksgiving day from stress. Are you still with me?
I'm alive for a reason. I am advocating for people like myself, for my friends who are dead, and for every family member of a first responder watching their loved one suffer as the system fails them state by state. Thank you for your service is not enough. We need action, now, supporting our disabled first responders in the same way as our veterans.
The politics continue, the data silo furthers it state by state, as lives are lost - heroes to zeroes.
MY ASK OF OUR NATION'S CITIZENS & LAW MAKERS
I propose, at minimum, there be a national solution in addressing the needs of disabled first responders so they and their families can move forward in the face of disability.
ISSUES & WAYS TO MAKE THINGS BETTER FOR DISABLED FIRST RESPONDERS & THEIR FAMILIES
1. Veterans have access to quality care for life. First responders who are disabled, but who do not meet social security's stringent disability guidelines, should receive Medicare benefits across all 50 states.
2. Veterans receive a GI Bill assisting their transition to minimize student loan debt in exchange for their service. First responders who are disabled, should receive 100% tuition assistance for first time bachelors degree in-line with veterans. This can be funded by each state's public university system.
3. Veterans have special home loans. First responders who are disabled, should have a system in place, whereby, if they are enrolled in a bachelors degree program, they are able to extend their home loan without losing their home during their transition. Banks need to step up and take care of our heroes.
4. Employers of veterans receive a tax credit. First responders, who are disabled, are seen as a risk because there is no transactional benefit to corporations. Congress can execute legislation giving employers of disabled first responders the same tax advantage as veterans.
5. Veterans receive universal care for PTSD and disability compensation. First responders must prove their injury was "job related." 50 states have 50 different workers compensation systems - most do not cover firefighters, cops, and EMTs for PTSD. Suicide rates are rising, depression/anxiety is rising, time off work for stress, and co-morbid illness is costly. Each union is trying to solve this. It is time for a national resolution to solve this unifying police, fire, EMS, just like each branch of the military does under the word veteran.
Friends of first responders: there are only 2 million first responders out there. A lot make it through their 30 year careers, and others like myself don't. Service shouldn't come with the cost of losing homes and lives. I am asking for your signature to drive this petition forward to our Congress and White House. It's time we end the politics to get our firefighters, cops, and ambulance workers close to the same benefits as our veterans. Both groups are vital to our society, and one is sorely underrepresented. I know the facts. I've lived it. I've survived it. I'm asking for YOUR help.
Please sign this now and share this on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and any other source you have to drive action on this timely and important issue hidden behind the image of bravery.
Link: One of the few articles that articulates this crisis and personal stories beyond my own. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/09/the-states-that-dont-compensate-sick-firefighters/405181/
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