LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Jon Bumstead on Thursday testified before the Senate Committee on Labor in support of his bill to guarantee worker’s compensation benefits to part-time police officers and volunteer firefighters.
“Currently, part-time and volunteer members of police departments, fire departments or public fire authorities are commonly denied worker’s compensation for respiratory and heart disease claims due to the presumption that these diseases did not arise from their line of work and service to our communities,” said Bumstead, R-North Muskegon.
“My bill would no longer subject part-time and volunteer members to a different standard than their full-time counterparts. Our part-time police officers and volunteer firefighters risk their lives to serve and protect the public, and we should do all we can to give back to them and show our gratitude for their service to their communities.”
Bumstead said Senate Bill 244 would work to correct an oversight in a 2021 update to the state’s Worker’s Disability Compensation Act that currently covers full-time police and firefighters who are granted a presumption that their respiratory illness or heart disease arose during their employment. His plan would also include part-time and voluntary members of police and fire departments.
He was joined by Muskegon Township Fire Chief Dave Glotzbach, who highlighted the need to provide all first responders with equal worker’s compensation protections.
Glotzbach, who previously served as president of the Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs shared the story of Grant Township on-call firefighter Michael Buitendrop, who died in November 2020 after suffering a heart attack while responding to an emergency call.
“The worker’s compensation claim was denied citing this section of law as the rationale for denial,” Glotzbach said. “As a chief of a fire department utilizing full-time, part-time and paid on-call firefighters — all with the same basic training and responsibilities — it is difficult to comprehend that I may be placed in a position that denies coverage for two groups of firefighters while one group of firefighters is presumed to be covered when all are doing the same activities.
“Fire departments across this state and country are challenged to recruit and retain paid on-call, part-time and volunteer firefighters. We all look for opportunities that can help us attract good people to these positions. Passing this bill is one opportunity that provides equity and demonstrates we value all firefighters.”