Cuomo OKs cancer benefits for volunteer firefighters

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Sunday to provide health care benefits to volunteer firefighters diagnosed with certain cancers.

Currently, volunteer firefighters are eligible for accidental disability and death benefits through Workers’ Compensation when injured in the line of duty.

However, firefighting also increases cancer risk, according to Dr. Jacqueline Moline, chair of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York Health and Wellness Committee.

“Firefighters are exposed to an enormous variety of toxins and carcinogens in the line of duty, and consequently are more likely to develop cancer than the general population,” Moline said.

“Because of this, it is necessary to offer additional benefits and protections to all firefighters, so that if they do develop cancer, they are not left alone.”

Under the bill, as of January 1, 2019, volunteer firefighters who contract certain cancers will receive access to tax free disability and death benefits.

Firefighters diagnosed with lung, prostate, breast, lymphatic, hematological, digestive, urinary, neurological, reproductive systems, or melanoma cancer will be automatically eligible for health benefits if they meet three conditions:

When they began volunteering, a physical exam showed no evidence of the cancers covered by the bill; they have at least five years of service fighting fires in building interiors; and they are currently active or within five years of their last active date.

“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,” Cuomo said when signing the bill.

Assembly member Aileen Gunther and several dozen fire chiefs and officials promoted the legislation.