Press Releases

Senator Warner Announces Volunteer First Responders Exempt from Healthcare Mandate

~ Volunteer firefighters across Virginia able to keep serving their communities ~

Jan 10 2014

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) announced today that volunteer emergency service workers will not be required to be counted as full-time equivalent employees for purposes of healthcare coverage, which could have gutted the ranks of emergency first responders across the country. In a response to a letter that Sen. Warner sent in December, the U.S. Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service agreed today to exempt volunteer emergency responders from the healthcare mandate.

Some volunteer firefighters are nominally paid, and most volunteer first responders have other full-time employment. Many emergency response agencies do not have the resources to provide pay or benefits to volunteers, nor do most volunteer first responders expect to receive compensation or health coverage as a result of their volunteer public service. An estimated 48,000 volunteer firefighters serve across Virginia and an estimated 454 volunteer EMT's, according to the Virginia Department of Fire Programs the Virginia Department of Health, respectively.

“This is a huge victory for volunteer emergency responders and the communities that rely on them,” Sen. Warner said. “I’ve said all along that there will be issues that arise with health care reform and that we should work in a bipartisan way to fix them. I am proud that together, we were able to solve this issue and keep America’s first responders working for their communities.”

“This is an important victory for America’s fire and emergency services. The Administration recognizes the special nature of America’s volunteer firefighters and the critical role that they serve in protecting their communities. I would like to thank Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) for his leadership on this issue, and for introducing legislation that would have taken care of this issue," said Chief William Metcalf, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.