Byrne Passes 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, played an important role in the introduction and Assembly passage of the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Gap Coverage Cancer Disability Benefits Act.

Yesterday, Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R, C, I, Ref-Mahopac) announced the state Assembly’s passage of a bill A.711B 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.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther for introducing this bill and for her leadership on this important issue. This was truly a nonpartisan effort to support our volunteer firefighters, some of the most dedicated and selfless members of our community, and I am honored to have played an important role in the passage of this legislation,” said Byrne. “Support for this bill was widespread throughout our communities, and transcended party lines. Although I still prefer the original version of this bill, I am thrilled we were able to deliver this victory, expanding sorely needed cancer coverage for the brave men and women who put themselves in harm’s way each day to protect our safety.”

Higher cancer rates have been detected among firefighters due to the increased flammability and carcinogens produced by the synthetic materials used to build modern homes. The New York State Volunteer Firefighters Gap Coverage Cancer Disability Benefits Act, when enacted, will ensure that volunteer firefighters suffering from these diseases will be afforded the necessary insurance benefits to guarantee they are protected.

Benefits afforded to volunteer firefighters through this program 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 accidental death benefit payment. According to a recent study produced by the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY), volunteer firefighters already save New York State over $3 billion annually. It is only right that we ensure they have the necessary cancer coverage they need.

Entering the final weeks of session, it was still unclear whether or not the bill would be brought the Assembly floor for a vote. However, Assemblyman Byrne’s efforts throughout this year’s legislative session made it clear to legislative leadership that this measure needed to be a top priority. Over the past several months, the Assemblyman gathered hundreds of supportive petitions from community members, secured resolutions from various municipalities and organizations and wrote columns in support of this measure. In addition, Byrne and his team collaborated with FASNY representatives, sponsors of the bill, local volunteer fire companies and members of the Assemblyman’s Fire and EMS advisory committee to raise awareness for this worthy cause.

While two versions of the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Gap Coverage Cancer Disability Benefits Act have passed the Senate this year, this is the first to be approved in the state Assembly. The bill will now be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature and final approval.