Get PJ Media on your Apple

The PJ Tatler

by
Bryan Preston

Bio

December 6, 2013 - 7:37 am

Through the magic combination of Obamacare and the IRS, volunteer firefighters may be considered “employees,” and their volunteer fire departments may be forced to give them healthcare. Or pay penalties that would force them to shut down.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs has asked the Internal Revenue Service, which has partial oversight of the law, to clarify if current IRS treatment of volunteer firefighters as employees means their hose companies or towns must offer health insurance coverage or pay a penalty if they don’t.

The organization representing the fire chiefs has been working on the issue with the IRS and White House for months.

“It could be a huge deal,” said U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, who is seeking clarification from the IRS. “In Pennsylvania, 97 percent of fire departments are fully or mostly volunteer firefighters. It’s the fourth highest amount in the country.”

So far, the IRS hasn’t decided what to do.

Efforts to reach spokesmen for the IRS were unsuccessful.

One would think that since volunteer firefighters aren’t paid, usually belong to small fire departments that operate on a shoestring and don’t work more than 29 hours per week fighting fires, Obamacare wouldn’t touch them. But the IRS considers all volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel to be employees. So the IRS could well rule that they must be extended healthcare, or their fire departments face penalties. The IRS hasn’t decided if it’s going to continue that thinking applied to Obamacare.

If it does, then volunteer fire departments will face a world of hurt. They could go away, leaving rural communities vulnerable.

Volunteer firefighters are not employees. I have some passing experience with volunteer fire departments, since my father founded one in a small town when I was a kid. The firefighters all had full-time jobs or owned their own businesses. They didn’t work for the fire department and weren’t even close to full-time employees for the purpose of fighting fires. They might have fought a fire once a month in a busy time. They volunteered to fight fires, trained once in a while, and when there was a fire to fight in or near town, they were right there to fight it. While they weren’t the busiest fire department on earth, they were extremely important to the town — the largest nearby city was twenty miles and a crowded interstate away. Even closer, smaller cities were too far away to be much help if a grass or house fire threatened a neighborhood. Texas gets hot and dry in the summer. Even small grass fires can become a very big deal in a hurry. The town supported the department as much as it could, with a simple building and so forth, but the fire department depended on the volunteerism and donations to exist. It mainly obtained its gear and trucks through donations from larger nearby cities that had bought newer gear and trucks  – they would donate the older stuff that still functioned to our town’s volunteer fire department.

Obamacare could destroy all this, leaving small and even some larger towns vulnerable to disasters. Given just how President Obama embodies that special combination of arrogance, stupidity, and totalitarianism, it might.

By the way, we’re not just talking about volunteer fire departments here. Many fire departments in larger cities accept volunteers, too. Obamacare may end that — having the effect of creating more distance between citizens and those who serve and protect us.

h/t Jim Geraghty

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
It is all about CONTROL and UNIONS
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's not a bug, it's a feature! They want to replace volunteers with dues-paying union "members".
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (7)
All Comments   (7)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
My family has been serving our respective communities for 5 generations - the department I started with over 50 years ago was all volunteer and was responsible for being either the first in Pierce Co - State of WA - or the nation with innovations tactics training equipment which departments now take for granted. Obama has attacked the wrong patriotic real Americans and we are not going to back down nor will we show any compassion for anyone who is bent on destroying volunteer fire departments
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is all about CONTROL and UNIONS
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
But of course - he promised to fundamentally change the USA, didn't he?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yup... if you like (and need) your VFD and VEMS, you can keep it... period.

Yeah, right. How much more screwed up ("fundamentally transformed") does this country have to become before people rise up and put a stop to it?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's not a bug, it's a feature! They want to replace volunteers with dues-paying union "members".
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
In our town, the FF and EMTs get a stipend of $250 per quarter if they respond to 15% or more of the off hours calls (we have paid staff during the day). Come tax time, they get a 1099 from the town for the stipend $$ and have to file a schedule C (self employed) form. That makes them independent contractors and not employees
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Gosh! Maybe Obama can support unionized firefighting nationwide! Fully compliant with all EEO regulations (of course).

Maybe they can also "help" on election day!
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
View All