County lawmakers approve petition to back cancer coverage for volunteer firefighters

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Oneida County legislators want the state to enact presumptive cancer coverage for volunteer firefighters.

The state Senate approved such a measure Jan. 24 by a unanimous vote, a move the Albany-based Firemen’s Association of the State of New York applauded in a press release issued the same day. The bill extends existing coverage to include melanoma and a wide variety of cancers, including digestive, lymphatic and neurological cancers.

The Assembly must pass a version of the bill before it can be sent to the governor for his consideration. The Assembly chamber is where similar measures have become stalled in recent years years.

“The Oneida County Legislature calls upon Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the New York State Legislature, to pass the Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Bill for volunteer firefighters, so that volunteers can be protected from the dangers they face,” states a petition that was signed by all 23 legislators last week.

There are more than 2,750 volunteer fighters in the county, according to the petition.

Volunteers do not receive extra health care benefits when it comes to cancer coverage despite their exposure to smoke and toxic fumes. The Senate bill focuses on interior firefighters.

Professional firefighters already are entitled to such coverage.

“Thirty-five other states in the nation have already passed presumptive cancer legislation,” said Firemen’s Association President Ken Pienkowski in the press release. “New York’s paid firefighters already have this important coverage, but volunteers do not.”

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