Byrne Calls for Passage of Bill Improving Cancer Coverage for Volunteer Firefighters

Legislation would offer enhanced benefits to individuals who develop cancer

Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, a freshman legislator and volunteer firefighter himself, has demonstrated a profound commitment to these civil servants during his first year in Albany.

Today, Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R, C, I, Ref-Mahopac) called on the leadership in the state Assembly to take up a bill A.711A that would enact the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Gap Coverage Cancer Disability Benefits Act, providing crucial support to volunteer firefighters who develop certain types of cancers due to the hazardous exposures from interior firefighting. The bill, of which Byrne is a prime co-sponsor, represents an opportunity for New York lawmakers to reaffirm their commitment to the brave men and women of the volunteer fire service who keep our communities safe.

Today’s fires are far more toxic than in decades past. Homes today are built with synthetic materials which are highly flammable; produce more potent carcinogens and burn at a higher temperature than ever before. Because of these factors, there is a link to a higher rate of cancer among firefighters today than their predecessors experienced. Volunteer firefighters and their families deserve the peace of mind to know that they will be protected.

The bill, which was recently amended in an attempt to ensure its passage this year, aims to offer volunteer firefighters increased cancer disability insurance benefits. These benefits would include a lump-sum payment dependent on the severity of an individual’s illness, consecutive monthly payments to firefighters who are completely disabled and an accident death benefit payment. According to a recent study conducted by the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY), volunteer firefighters save New York state over three billion dollars every year.

“Although I still prefer the original version of this bill, I’m happy to see that by working across the aisle, we have a proposal that will still significantly increase sorely needed cancer coverage for the men and women of the volunteer fire service,” said Byrne. “Our office has secured hundreds of signatures from citizens who support passage of this legislation. Support for this bill is wide-spread and nonpartisan, and now with 100 sponsors in the Assembly, I say the men and women of the volunteer fire service deserve a vote on the floor!

“I applaud Assemblywoman Gunther, the prime sponsor of the bill, for her leadership on this issue in the Assembly, and I call on my colleagues across the New York State Legislature to join in our efforts in supporting its passage, as soon as possible.”

Although the original version of the bill did pass the Senate earlier this year, the amended New York State Volunteer Firefighter Gap Coverage Cancer Disability Benefits Act has yet to be brought to the floor in either the state Assembly or Senate. Time is counting down quickly as this year’s legislative session is scheduled to conclude on June 21.