Cuomo signs bill extending health care benefits for volunteer firefighters

New York volunteer firefighters who have been diagnosed with certain cancers will be eligible for health care benefits under a new state law.

The law, which goes into effect beginning in 2019, will provide benefits to volunteers who develop lung, prostate, breast, lymphatic, hematological, digestive, urinary, neurological, reproductive system or melanoma cancer. Firefighters would have to prove that their entry physical exam did not show evidence of cancers covered under the law, they have at least five years of interior firefighting service and they are current active or were active within the last five years.

Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Sunday that he had signed legislation that will provide the benefit to the nearly 100,000 New Yorkers who serve as volunteers with fire companies across the state. Volunteer firefighters injured in the line of duty are currently eligible for accidental disability and death benefits through Workers’ Compensation.

Many people helped this bill become law over the last several years, including state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther, D-Forestburgh, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, many volunteer firefighters like former Whitesboro Fire Chief Brian McQueen and fire departments across New York.

McQueen survived cancer and founded a foundation to provide emotional and financial support to firefighters in Oneida and Herkimer counties facing serious illnesses.

“Successful legislation often comes about because a dedicated individual acts as quarterback for the issue,” said Griffo and Assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi, D-119, Utica, in a statement.

“Brian deeply believed in this cause, and his steadfast determination to see this bill become law was truly inspiration, and extremely important to its success. “The signing of the legislation is the touchdown Brian and his family and friends have been fighting for.”

Griffo was the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, and Brindisi was a cosponsor in the Assembly.