Release: Vt. Senators Seek to Extend Benefits for Non-Profit EMS Personnel

. . . Bennington Tragedy Spotlights Coverage Gaps

WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, June 26) -- U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday introduced legislation to extend the federal Public Safety Officers Benefits (PSOB) program to paramedics and emergency medical technicians killed or disabled in the line of duty who are employed by nonprofit organizations and ambulance services.  U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is a cosponsor of the bill. 

Named the “Dale Long Emergency Medical Service Providers Protection Act” in honor of the Bennington emergency medical service provider who was tragically killed in an ambulance accident last week, the bill would qualify an estimated 1200 Vermont EMS personnel for the PSOB program, which is run by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Leahy said, “We have been working to address this gap in the federal program for some time, and the loss of Dale Long reminds everyone that first responders of many uniforms literally put their lives at risk every day.”  Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the PSOB program and the new Leahy bill.  Leahy has successfully steered earlier PSOB improvements into law.  “These brave emergency professionals never let their communities down when a call comes in, and no one asks the lifesavers at an emergency scene whether they work for a nonprofit agency.  We should erase that distinction from this program.”

Sanders said, “The men and women employed by nonprofit EMS companies put their lives on the line for their friends, family and neighbors every day.  They fill an essential need of their communities, yet, when they are hurt or even killed in the line of duty, their families are left out in the cold.  This legislation would give them the respect they deserve, the respect they earned.” 

“The Vermont Ambulance Association has been working with Senator Leahy on legislation to broaden the definition of EMS providers eligible for the Public Safety Officers Death Benefit,” said Jim Finger, President of the Vermont Ambulance Association.  “The unfortunate death of Paramedic Dale Long has brought this to the forefront and we support and are proud to have Senator Leahy introduce this legislation that extends the benefits to all not for profit Emergency Medical Service Providers.”

Congress created the PSOB program more than three decades ago to provide tangible help – including to families -- to police, firefighters and medics who lose their lives or are disabled in the line of duty.  The benefits now only apply to public safety officers employed by federal, state, and local government entities.  With volunteers providing emergency medical service to many communities in Vermont and across the country, the Dale Long Emergency Medical Service Provider Protection Act would remedy this gap by extending the PSOB program to cover nonprofit EMS personnel.