Dozens of volunteer firefighters and first responders came together in Albertson to talk about important issues on this year's state legislative agenda: specifically, a presumptive cancer coverage bill that could change thousands of lives.
"Career firefighters in the state have had a presumption that certain cancers are a result of their work as firefighters, for about 15 years,” said Robert Leonard of the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York. “Volunteers don't have that coverage. Our volunteers volunteer to fight fires, they didn't volunteer to get cancer."
There are 110,000 volunteer firefighters in New York State, many of them exposed to dangerous toxins and carcinogens in the line of duty. "Firefighters are 102 percent more likely to get certain cancers, 65-70 percent more likely to get other cancers," continued Robert Leonard.
That's why a cancer coverage bill was at the top of today's agenda. The bill has already passed the Senate unanimously, but if it pushes through the Assembly, it will ensure that all volunteer firefighters are covered in the event of a cancer diagnosis.
"It’s critical to the members, the thousands that serve in the fire service, that they have that protection, and for the families, too, from a financial standpoint," added State Senator John Brooks.
Port Washington volunteer firefighter tom McDonough is one of those firemen. He was diagnosed with cancer back in 2013, and told FiOS1 News he's been paying hundreds a year out of pocket for his medical treatments.
"If I was covered under it, it would save me probably around $1,500 a year. And that's only because I have such good insurance," McDonough said.
There are about a dozen bills on the agenda for this year. Though the cancer bill is top priority, fire service leaders are also pushing bills for rapid payments to the families of deceased firefighters.