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Bill proposes workers' compensation benefits for volunteers

Virtually no one works in a risk-free profession, but some people in Pennsylvania take on a much greater risk than others. Firefighters and ambulance workers must perform their work duties in what are often dangerous situations in which injury is a real possibility. Although workers' compensation benefits are available to these individuals, the Pennsylvania state workers' comp system has long left out volunteer workers.

Volunteer fire and ambulance workers put just as much on the line as those who are regularly employed in the profession. However, they are not eligible for workers' compensation benefits if they are injured on the job. Two state senators are hoping to change that.

State Sens. Scott Martin and Randy Vulakovich recently introduced a bill that would guarantee coverage for these volunteer workers. The pair wrote the bill after a hearing that included testimony from volunteer who had been injured while performing volunteer fire and ambulance duties but had their claims denied. Sen. Martin stated that he believed volunteers working in these fields were exposed to the same dangers as their paid peers, and as such deserved the same kinds of protection.

Pennsylvania victims who suffer work-related injuries are sometimes eager to return to work not because they have recovered but because they are concerned about their finances. Workers' compensation provides essential financial benefits for both medical bills and lost wages, allowing victims to better focus on their recovery. Depending on how the bill is received by Pennsylvania senators, those who work as volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers could soon realize these protections afforded to their peers.

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