Sunday, July 01, 2007

Treating Firefighters Like Garbage

The Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act was passed in 2003 to extend death benefits to the families of emergency workers stricken by stroke or heart attack in the line of duty, making them eligible for up to $300,000.

Rensselaer Assistant Fire Chief Mike Falkouski, 59, suffered a stroke and died in January 2005 after responding in a heavy snow storm to a report of an explosion. Elsmere Fire Chief Kevin Shea, 54, died of a heart attack in January 2004 in the parking lot of the Elsmere fire station, just minutes after returning from a call at a nursing home.

But the Bureau of Justice Assistance, which runs the Hometown Heroes program, denied their families' claims, along with 36 others out of the first 40 it received. The bureau did not announce it had approved any until it came under fire this spring for the denials.

There are over two hundred claims pending, forty rejected and just four accepted. In other words, the Homeland Security Department is "saving money", by making this law worth less than the paper it was printed upon.

As kids we grow up often idolizing the bravery of these men and women. While we run in fear from a blazing inferno, they jump in, eyes wide open to the danger face, risking their own lives to save those who were left behind. If they make it out of the building wearing one hundred pounds of gear, dragging five people out, they should get benefits if they drop dead of a heart attack from exhaustion.

Or maybe the fire department can toss their bodies onto the smoldering flames in order for the families of these heroes to get benefits paid out without Michael Chertoff wanking his crank and not doing a damned thing other than trying to save $300,000 by not paying out.

Because of the long rotating shifts of firefighters, their spouses often don't work because it would be near impossible to raise kids otherwise. Imagine these families for a moment. The husband and breadwinner is dead at fifty years old after risking his life hundreds of times. The grieving spouse knows this law was passed to protect families like hers, so she applies for benefits. Nationwide, four claims have been approved.

Shame on you you bastards. If an oil company needed a tax cut, you would be hopping on it. Don't you dare throw patriotism in our faces when you treat American heroes this way.