Firefighter’s widow focuses light on plight of contract workers

first_img“I’m going to direct my staff to look into the possibilities of doing something for her,” Feinstein said. Likewise, said Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz, “We have staff in D.C. and California looking into this issue.” Wells-Groff sued when the U.S. Justice Department denied her claim for about $250,000, noting her husband was employed by a private firm under government contract. U.S. firefighting agencies contract through private firms for hundreds of pilots, planes and helicopters to reduce costs and avoid liabilities. One federal court judge in Wells-Groff’s legal battle agreed her husband had been a public safety officer and, as such, was due benefits. But an appellate court overturned the decision. On Oct. 1, she asked the Supreme Court to review the decision. The Supreme Court typically takes months to decide whether to review a case and faces no deadline, said Michael Brook, Wells-Groff’s attorney. [email protected] (916) 447-9302160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SACRAMENTO – Christine Wells-Groff of Santa Rosa is getting the attention she has sought for six years in her quest to right what she considers an injustice to some of the nation’s firefighting heroes. The Justice Department denied Wells-Groff federal death benefits because her husband, Larry Groff, was a contract firefighter – not a government employee. She has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her appeal. But on Friday, Rep. Barbara Cubin of Wyoming, a longtime Republican lawmaker who has come across other such cases, said she plans to introduce legislation that would allow survivors of federally contracted pilots who die in the line of duty to receive benefits under the U.S. Public Safety Officer Benefits program. “These men and women risk life and limb for our country, just like any other public safety officer,” Cubin said. “Their families should not be left without any means of support just because insurance companies refuse to provide reasonable coverage and the federal government refuses to step in.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas CityIn addition, California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are exploring ways to help Wells-Groff, whose husband died in a midair crash while fighting a Mendocino County wildfire in 2001. Direct employees of federal, state and local agencies automatically receive the benefit as an incentive to work dangerous jobs. California set up a similar program for its contract pilots after Groff’s death. It’s unclear whether the legislation would retroactively cover Wells-Groff and other survivors of pilots killed in previous firefighting crashes. More than 160 aerial firefighters have died nationally in the line of duty since 1958. Cubin said she intends to pursue the legislation during the current two-year session of Congress, which runs through 2008. Feinstein and Boxer, both Bay Area Democrats, are probing why Wells-Groff has had to wage a six-year court battle for a federal benefit that has taken her all the way to the Supreme Court. last_img read more

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