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Governor signs legislation for health care benefits to volunteer firefighters with certain cancers

Posted 22 October 2017 at 4:37 pm

File photo by Tom Rivers: Carlton firefighters put out a big brush fire on Aug. 29, 2015.

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation to deliver health care benefits to volunteer firefighters who have been diagnosed with certain cancers.

“New York is forever grateful to the 96,000 volunteer firefighters who selflessly put their own personal safety at risk in order to keep their neighbors and communities safe,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this measure, we will provide these courageous New Yorkers the protections they need and the peace of mind they deserve.”

Currently, volunteer firefighters are eligible for accidental disability and death benefits through Workers’ Compensation if they are injured in the line of duty. Effective January 1, 2019, firefighters will also be eligible for health benefits to support treatment for life-threatening cancers.

Under the bill (S1411B- A711B), volunteer firefighters who contract certain cancers will receive access to tax free disability and death benefits. Specifically, volunteer firefighters diagnosed with lung, prostate, breast, lymphatic, hematological, digestive, urinary, neurological, reproductive systems, or melanoma cancer will be automatically eligible for health benefits if:

• Upon entry to volunteer, a physical exam did not show any evidence of the cancers covered by this bill;

• Individuals have at least five years of service fighting fire in the interior of buildings; and

• The firefighter is currently active or within 5 years of his or her last active date.

Kenneth Pienowski, President of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York said, “This is a great day for New York State. Governor Andrew Cuomo and our elected representatives in Albany have acted to decisively protect those who protect the people of this great state. New York’s brave volunteer firefighters now have the protections and help they need in the tragic event of a cancer diagnosis. We are tremendously grateful to the Governor for his action. We also thank State Senator Joseph Griffo, Assemblymember Aileen Gunther, Assemblymember Anthony Brindisi, and Assemblymember Brian Kolb for their leadership and support through this entire process. Because of them, the future generation of volunteer firefighters will not have to face cancer alone.”

John P. Sroka, President of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs said, “All firefighters, regardless of whether they are paid or volunteer, fight identical fires. Because of this, all firefighters should be treated equally and receive equal benefits in the event of a cancer diagnosis. Thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, this is now a reality. New York’s selfless volunteers, who sacrifice so much to protect all of us, now have the benefits that they need. The Fire Chiefs of New York applaud Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for their actions today and throughout this year’s session.”

Thomas Rinaldi, President of the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York said, “The Fire Districts of New York are grateful to Governor Andrew Cuomo and bill sponsors State Senator Joseph Griffo, Assemblymember Aileen Gunther, and Assemblymember Anthony Brindisi for protecting New York State’s brave volunteer firefighters. Presumptive cancer coverage is an essential benefit for 21st century firefighters, and the signing of this legislation ensures that all firefighters in New York State will be equipped for 21st century fires. It is fitting that volunteers who sacrifice their time, safety, and health to protect their communities now have essential assistance available in their times of need.”

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