Both the New York State Senate and Assembly have passed a bill that would provide presumptive cancer coverage for volunteer firefighters throughout the state.
The Senate passed the bill Monday and the Assembly passed it Tuesday with a unanimous vote, State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica announced late Tuesday morning. Sen. Joseph Griffo of Rome was the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, and Brindisi was a co-sponsor of the bill in the Assembly.
Volunteer firefighters will be eligible for enhanced cancer disability benefits if they have served for at least five years as an interior firefighter and they successfully passed a physical examination upon entering the fire service that didn’t initially show and signs of cancer.
According to the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY), the bill includes a lump sum of $25,000 for any qualifying firefighter who contracts melanoma and cancers of the digestive, hematological, lymphatic, urinary, prostate, neurological, breast and reproductive systems.
The bill also includes 36 months of $1,500 disability benefits per month if the volunteer firefighter is unable to work due to their illness, and a $50,000 death benefit for the volunteer firefighter’s family if they die of cancer.
The benefits would be covered through an insurance policy paid for by the municipality that the volunteer firefighter serves.
Brian McQueen, who currently sits on the Board of Directors for FASNY and serves as a volunteer firefighter in Whitesboro (former chief and deputy chief), was diagnosed with B Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2013. The Believe 271 Foundation was created by McQueen and others to help firefighters such as himself offset the costs of health care and travel expenses, as well as provide educational assistance, when members of the fire services are diagnosed with cancer and life-threatening illnesses.
McQueen was in Albany Tuesday in support of the bill as the Assembly passed it.
“This bill will provide the support for the volunteer fire service and their families that was never available to them,” McQueen said. “In the words of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly: ‘Make a difference today for someone who’s fighting for their tomorrow.’”
Next, the bill will go before Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be signed into law. If it is signed, the legislation will take effect in 2019.
A statement from FASNY president Ken Pienkowski stated:
“Today is a great day for the 110,000 men and women of the Volunteer Fire Service who place themselves in harm’s way to protect their fellow New Yorkers. The State Assembly and the State Senate have now passed legislation that grants presumptive cancer coverage to volunteers, something that is sorely needed as rates of firefighter cancer continue to rise. FASNY is grateful for all those who have supported this critical piece of legislation, especially Senator Griffo and Assemblyman Brindisi for sponsoring this bill and standing by the fire service from day one. We now call upon Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign this bill into law without delay, and ensure that New York’s volunteer firefighters have the protections that 21st century firefighting requires.”