Several volunteer firefighting organizations serve Queens, and those serving them will soon be eligible to receive coverage for cancer treatment during or after their service thanks to a new state law that takes effect next year.
This new law (Chapter 334), co-sponsored by state Senator Joseph Addabbo, will allow certain volunteer firefighters to be eligible for benefits to treat a variety of cancers including lung, prostate, breast, lymphatic, hematological, digestive, urinary, neurological, reproductive system and melanoma cancers. Death benefits for the families of volunteer firefighters who died of specific cancer complications will also be available.
“We all appreciate the dangerous work performed by our volunteer firefighters, and how their brave efforts can expose them to toxins that may lead to serious illnesses,” Addabbo said. “This new law will help to expand benefits already available to our vollies, and provide peace of mind to firefighters who become ill with cancers presumably associated with their service.”
Currently, the city’s volunteer firefighters can apply for accidental disability and death benefits through Worker’s Compensation law if they become injured in the line of duty.
Under this new law, however, there are some restrictions on who can access the benefits, Addabbo said.
According to Chapter 334 — which will go into effect in January 2019 — in order to be eligible for the health benefits, volunteer firefighters must have shown no signs of the disease after undergoing a physical exam upon joining the fire company. They must also have served with the company for at least five years while fighting fires in building interiors, and can only claim benefits if they are currently active or are within five years of their last service.
If eligible, qualified volunteer firefighters diagnosed with cancer will be eligible for a $25,000 lump sum payment, depending on the diagnosis. Those firefighters disabled due to their cancer could also receive up to $1,500 a month for 36 months, and a death benefit of $50,000.
“This legislation builds upon the state’s existing Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law and may provide significant peace of mind and financial support for brave men and women who develop cancer after devoting years of their lives to protecting our communities from fire,” Addabbo said. “Our vollies routinely make selfless decisions to give of themselves to all of us in our times of greatest need, and they deserve our deepest respect and gratitude.”