Frequently Asked Questions related to the new Cancer Legislation
NEW YORK STATE GAP COVERAGE CANCER LEGISLATION
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the purpose of Assembly Bill 711B/Senate Bill 1411B
A. It provides volunteer firefighters with monetary assistance in the event they are diagnosed with cancer. This is a less expensive alternative than providing VFBL/Worker’s Compensation coverage for those believed to have contracted cancer from firefighting. There was an initial estimate of a 150% increase in VFBL costs if coverage was provided under workers’ compensation. Thus, many self-insured counties had stated the extreme cost increase would force them to drop VFBL from their worker’s compensation pool. Furthermore data from states with VFBL coverage, such as Pennsylvania, showed that more than half the claims are denied as insurers aggressively challenged these claims. Thus, the New York State Assembly and Senate worked with the fire service and the localities to craft a bill which would provide extensive coverage but meet the threshold cost needs of the localities.
Q. What are the benefits provided under the legislation?
A. There are three separate benefits, which are independent of each other:
- The lump-sum benefit provides a payout for a diagnosis of cancer based upon the severity of the diagnosis. For less severe forms of cancer there is a lump sum payment of $6,250. If the cancer is more severe based on the guidelines of the bill, there will be a lump sum payment of $25,000. This lump sum payment is drawn from a pool of $50,000 per firefighter which will be available if there is more than one negative diagnosis over the volunteer firefighters’ lifetime.
- If the volunteer firefighter becomes totally disabled, the volunteer firefighter will be eligible for a monthly benefit of $1,500 payable up to 36 consecutive monthly payments.
- In case of death, volunteer firefighters’ family will be eligible for an accidental death benefit in the amount of $50,000.
These benefits will not be subject to New York State income tax.
Q. Is this benefit available to all volunteer firefighters?
A. A volunteer firefighter will be eligible for the enhanced cancer disability benefit if the following three criteria are met:
- The volunteer has served for at least five years as an interior firefighter as evidenced by passage of the mask fit test which is required of all volunteer firefighters with an interior firefighter rating;
- Upon entrance into the volunteer service the volunteer firefighter successfully passed a physical examination; and
- The volunteer firefighter has a disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in any part of the body or a malignant growth or tumor affecting the lymphatic or hematological systems or digestive, urinary, prostate, neurological, breast or reproductive systems or melanoma.
Q. Why does the legislation only cover interior firefighters with at least 5 years of active interior firefighting service?
A.First, when addressing the cancer legislation with policy staff in the Assembly, the issue of a study focusing solely on volunteer firefighters was raised. Although there have been numerous studies relating cancer to firefighting, those studies have only addressed the relation between career firefighters, who are all interior rated, and cancer. The policy staff expressed concerns that if the position of the volunteer fire service was to have the same status as career firefighters, the bill should be narrowly tailored to mirror the coverage provided to career firefighters. Secondly, working with leading experts on occupational cancer, it was determined that exposure to a toxin would generally take at least five years before, at the very least, a blood form of cancer would be diagnosed. These two issues resulted in the bill to be more narrowly tailored to mirror the career firefighter provisions and to meet the likely health issues associated with cancer and firefighting.
Q. Does the bill cover me through my entire volunteer service or just when I serve as an interior firefighter?
A. As long as you meet the requirements of the bill as of the effective date, January 1, 2019, you are covered under this bill as long as you remain in the volunteer service. Once you disengage from the volunteer service, the coverage will stay with a volunteer for up to 5 years after service. After 5 years the volunteer has the option of keeping coverage by paying the premiums associated with the disability insurance. Again, this mirrors the career disability benefits as they are able to keep their benefits for 2 years after they disengage from service.
Q. Do I have to prove that I got cancer from firefighting?
A. There is no requirement that a volunteer prove he was in contact with a specific carcinogen. It is assumed from the cited studies, which show interior firefighters are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, that no further proof is needed other than proof of cancer. Therefore, a volunteer who meets the eligibility requirements only needs to provide proof of diagnosis by a board-certified physician in the medical specialty appropriate for the type of cancer diagnosed that the volunteer has a designated form of cancer. This information must then be submitted to the insurance carrier. Also, unlike under VFBL, your claim cannot be challenged.
Q. How do I know if I am eligible for the $25,000 or $6,250 payment?
A. These payments are based on the severity of the cancer which must be shown by evidence from a board-certified doctor of the cancer. For a serious form of cancer, which would allow for the $25,000 payment, there must be proof of one or more malignant tumors characterized by the uncontrollable and abnormal growth and the spread of malignant cells with invasion of normal tissue and that either:
(i). There is metastasis; and
surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy is medically necessary; or
There is a tumor of the prostate, provided that it is treated with radical prostatectomy or external beam therapy; or
(ii). The firefighter has terminal cancer, his or her life expectancy is 24 months or less from the date of diagnosis, and will not benefit from, or has exhausted, curative therapy.
It should be noted that when this legislative language was crafted, experts in the field of occupational health were consulted as to the proper guidelines for severe and non-severe forms of cancer.
Q. Is the bill retroactive?
A. No, the bill is not retroactive. Since the protections are backed by disability insurance coverage, it will only cover those events that have yet to occur. As we know, insurance does not pay for acts which have already occurred before receiving coverage. But, prior 2019 active interior firefighter status will count towards the laws 5 years interior status requirement. Thus, the clock does not start to tick for the volunteer’s ability to meet the five-year requirement when the bill is effective. For example, a volunteer who has three years of interior service prior to the effective date would only need to have two more years in order to meet the requirements of the bill.
Q. Why is the effective date January 1, 2019?
A. The bill was designed to allow the insurance market to develop in order to provide more choice to fire departments who buy insurance coverage. The later effective date will also allow the State of New York to further assess the cost if there are dramatic changes in the insurance market. Presently we are aware of four major insurance providers who will likely write policies based on this legislation.
Q. Who pays for this disability coverage and how much will it cost?
A. The bill would require that any fire district, department or company to provide and maintain an enhanced cancer disability benefit insurance program for each eligible volunteer firefighter. A similar bill was passed in Georgia and the cost estimates of that bill are $300 per firefighter for the required benefits. Since New York State has a larger pool of eligible firefighters, there is an assumption that costs will be no more than the $300 per year/per firefighter presently estimated for coverage in Georgia.
Q. Does the bill have reporting requirements?
A. Yes, the bill requires that any fire district, department or company whose member has received a disability payment under the provisions of this act to report such payments to the Office of Fire Prevention and Control. The purpose of this section is to provide the fire service with further documented data as to the number of volunteer firefighters diagnosed with cancer. This will allow FASNY to review such incidents for potential future legislative action.
Norm Petricca leaves his post as Regional Director
It is my unfortunate duty to announce that a long time Director in Region 1 of the State Association has submitted his resignation. Norm Petricca has served the State Association as a Director for over 20 years and felt it was time to step aside. Norm has been a long time Commissioner and Board Chairman at Glenville Fire District #7, the Thomas Corners Fire Department.
Norm was one of the members of the Capital Area who drew me into the organization along with his sidekick the late Fred Blase and Norm has been a mentor, friend and ardent supporter ever since. I often sought guidance and historical perspective from Norm because of his long tenured participation. Norm has also been a long time supporter and member of the Capital Area Association of Fire Districts, often helping in the background to get things done. I can honestly say that when ever asked to perform a task, Norm always got it done. I have to thank Norm for being my campaign manager on several occasions and was always there to make sure the campaign material was within everyone’s reach.
I will personally miss seeing Norm and his lovely wife Charlene at the State Association events. I hope that Norm continues to participate at Capital Area events and we should stand and salute Norm for his outstanding contributions and support over the many years.
Tom Rinaldi, President AFDSNY
Governor Signs Cancer Benefit Bill
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation to deliver health care benefits to volunteer firefighters who have been diagnosed with certain cancers.
“New York is forever grateful to the 96,000 volunteer firefighters who selflessly put their own personal safety at risk in order to keep their neighbors and communities safe,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this measure, we will provide these courageous New Yorkers the protections they need and the peace of mind they deserve.”
Currently, volunteer firefighters are eligible for accidental disability and death benefits through Workers’ Compensation if they are injured in the line of duty. Effective January 1, 2019, firefighters will also be eligible for health benefits to support treatment for life-threatening cancers.
Under the bill (S1411B- A711B), volunteer firefighters who contract certain cancers will receive access to tax free disability and death benefits. Specifically, volunteer firefighters diagnosed with lung, prostate, breast, lymphatic, hematological, digestive, urinary, neurological, reproductive systems, or melanoma cancer will be automatically eligible for health benefits if:
- Upon entry to volunteer, a physical exam did not show any evidence of the cancers covered by this bill;
- Individuals have at least five years of service fighting fire in the interior of buildings; and
- The firefighter is currently active or within 5 years of his or her last active date.
Senator Joseph A. Griffo said, “The brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day and volunteer to keep our communities safe should not be burdened with unexpected medical bills from illness they received while on the front lines of fire emergencies. Thanks to Governor Cuomo and the Legislature, these courageous New Yorkers will now receive the health benefits they deserve and the opportunity to lead a quality life in the community they have worked so hard to help protect.”
Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther said, “To the New Yorkers who may have contracted an illness due to their bravery battling flames and smoke – help is being delivered. Thanks to the Governor’s action to provide benefits to our volunteers, we are taking necessary steps to support our heroic firefighters and thank them for their dedication to protecting communities across New York.”
Kenneth Pienowski, President of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York said, “This is a great day for New York State. Governor Andrew Cuomo and our elected representatives in Albany have acted to decisively protect those who protect the people of this great state. New York’s brave volunteer firefighters now have the protections and help they need in the tragic event of a cancer diagnosis. We are tremendously grateful to the Governor for his action. We also thank State Senator Joseph Griffo, Assemblymember Aileen Gunther, Assemblymember Anthony Brindisi, and Assemblymember Brian Kolb for their leadership and support through this entire process. Because of them, the future generation of volunteer firefighters will not have to face cancer alone.”
John P. Sroka, President of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs said, “All firefighters, regardless of whether they are paid or volunteer, fight identical fires. Because of this, all firefighters should be treated equally and receive equal benefits in the event of a cancer diagnosis. Thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, this is now a reality. New York’s selfless volunteers, who sacrifice so much to protect all of us, now have the benefits that they need. The Fire Chiefs of New York applaud Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for their actions today and throughout this year’s session.”
Thomas Rinaldi, President of the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York said, “The Fire Districts of New York are grateful to Governor Andrew Cuomo and bill sponsors State Senator Joseph Griffo, Assemblymember Aileen Gunther, and Assemblymember Anthony Brindisi for protecting New York State’s brave volunteer firefighters. Presumptive cancer coverage is an essential benefit for 21st century firefighters, and the signing of this legislation ensures that all firefighters in New York State will be equipped for 21st century fires. It is fitting that volunteers who sacrifice their time, safety, and health to protect their communities now have essential assistance available in their times of need.”
Dr. Jacqueline Moline, Chair of the FASNY Health & Wellness Committee said, “Firefighters are exposed to an enormous variety of toxins and carcinogens in the line of duty and consequently are more likely to develop cancer than the general population. This is a medical fact. Because of this, it is necessary to offer additional benefits and protections to all firefighters so that if they do develop cancer, they are not left alone. The actions of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature will ensure that all firefighters in New York State will be recognized and assisted once they are diagnosed with cancer.”
This legislation builds on a number of actions taken by this administration to protect the lives of both career and volunteer firefighters in New York State. Most recently, the Governor signed legislation expanding benefits for New Yorker’s who participated in 9/11 response and recovery efforts. Under the bill, residents are eligible for unlimited paid leave at 100 percent of their regular salary dating back to the time of their diagnosis.
In 2015, the Governor announced the roll out of NY Responds, a universal approach to disaster response and recovery that connects emergency management agencies, fire and EMS responders with the New York State Emergency Operations Center in Albany.
Investments have also been made to upgrade the State Fire Academy, which provides critical training to first responders from communities across the state. Located in Montour Falls, the state secured $500,000 in federal funding in May, 2016 to support training efforts there, and since 2011, the Governor has invested $3 million to improve the facility and grounds.
NORTHWELL VOLUNTEER FIRE FIGHTER CANCER STUDY
Most of you through your Fire Coordinators should have received a packet of information on the Northwell Cancer Study its asking you for the following information:
- Provide an email for a contact point for your department
- Use a link sent by the study team to open the online data collection form
- Enter your department information
- Provide the names of your firefighters
- The study aims to link firefighters with a cancer database already in existence, only thing is it doesn’t signify volunteer firefighters. That’s where you can help!!
- The study is trying to gather 50,000 names to develop a meaningful study. Please help!!
Open these links for more information:
FIRE DISTRICT ELECTION SCHEDULE 2017
FIRE DISTRICT ELECTION SCHEDULE 2017
October 12th, 2017
Last day to adopt resolution permitting absentee ballots at the Annual Election. Absentee ballots are optional for fire districts. If previously approved, does not have to be redone.
November 2nd , 2017
Request County Board of Elections provide a list of registered voters as of November 20th and to provide the list to the district by November 21st and order voting machines or other equipment and telephone coverage for the night of the election, if desired and available.
November 2nd , 2017
Last day to adopt resolutions designating Fire District Board of Elections, including Chairman and Election Inspectors and/or Ballot Clerks, fixing compensation of the individual members of the District Board of Elections
November 8th – 15th, 2017
Publish Notice of Election in district newspaper designating the dates on which the Inspectors of Election will prepare the register, the place where the registration and election will be held, the hours of the meeting and of the election, and last day for registration and procedure for absentee ballots
November 20st , 2017
Last day to register at County Board of Elections to be eligible to vote on December 13th, 2016 in Annual District Election
November 21st , 2017
County Board of Elections to mail lists of registered voters to Fire District Secretary.
November 22nd , 2017
Last day to file petitions for candidates for office, if required, or notify secretary in writing of intent to run for office if petition not required.
November 20th – December 12th, 2017
Post Notice of Election on district website and signboard, if any, at least 15, but not more than 20 days before date of election.
November 20th – December 12th, 2017
Copy of Notice of Election to town clerk for posting on municipal website, if any, bulletin board and signboard, if any, at least 15, but not more than 20 days before date of election.
NOTE: These notices [for websites, signboards and bulletin boards] must include time and place of election, officers to be elected, term of office and any other details regarding matters to be voted on as well as hours of polls being open for balloting. Suggest using regular Notice of Election published in district newspaper.
November 27th, 2017
Suggested meeting date for Fire District Board of Elections to prepare register. Can be any other date you choose after receiving registration books.
November 29th, 2017
If absentee voting is permitted, mail absentee ballots to any registered voter whose registration record is marked “permanently disabled” or earlier on receipt of list from County Board of Elections.
December 5th , 2017
Last day to receive application for absentee ballot if the ballot is to be mailed
December 11th, 2017
Last day to receive application for absentee ballots if it is delivered personally to the voter or his/her agent.
December 12th, 2017
Election Day- 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. minimum may be additional consecutive hours prior to 6:00 p.m.
December 15th, 2017
File results (Canvass of Election) with Town Clerk.
December 19th , 2017
Secretary to deliver a report to the County Board of Elections indicating the persons on the list of registered voters labeled “inactive” who voted at the fire district election.
Capital Area By-Laws as of November 9, 2017
Latest By-Laws of the Capital Area Association of Fire Districts
Marchione Sponsored Bill Signed into Law
Bill S05785 Cathy Marchione has been signed by the Governor
This will affect all fire protection districts!
Fire districts, villages, and towns on behalf of fire protection districts are authorized to enter into fire protection contracts with, among other entities, certain incorporated fire companies. The Town Law and the Village Law require that the fire protection contract specify a “definite sum” to be paid each year for all fire protection services to be rendered under the contract. The “definite sum” consideration under the contract is established through a negotiation process between the parties to the contract. In most cases, it is believed that there is a free exchange of information during the negotiation process as to the cost of providing fire protection. However, over the years, the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) has received a number of inquiries from local governments which have had difficulty in eliciting cost information from the fire company. In those situations, OSC has made several recommendations, such as including provisions in the contract to allow the local government access to fire company records pertaining to the cost of fire protection, making access to such information a condition of approving fire company fund raising activities pursuant to Section 204-a of the General Municipal Law, an d obtaining copies of various financial filings of the fire company.
Rather than remediating the problem on a case by case basis, this bill would provide for a standard statutory process to ensure that the necessary cost information is provided at the outset of the negotiations. The submission of an itemized statement of estimated costs will help promote a more transparent negotiation process that can better result in the parties to the contract reaching a fair and equitable price for fire protection services. This is especially appropriate since both the local government and the fire company are discharging a function for the benefit of the public in providing for fire protection. A waiver provision is included for situations when, for good cause shown, a board of fire commissioners, town board, or village board of trustees determines to waive the filing requirement, in whole or in part. Such waiver may be accomplished by resolution of the governing board.
Fall Seminar Scheduled for November
Attached is the flyer and registration form for the fall seminar being held on Saturday November 11th.
7:30-8:00 Registration & Continental Breakfast
8:00-8:10 Pledge to the Flag & Welcome: Capital Area Association Officers
8:10-9:15 Managing Human Resource Issues in the Fire Service: MICHAEL DALLESSANDRO, Fire Department Consultant (Volunteer & Combination) and current President and Life Member of the Grand Island, NY Volunteer Fire Company
9:15-10:15 The Public Information Officer’s (PIO) Role in the Fire District: ARTHUR HUNSINGER, Chief of the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Fire Department and Television Producer & Director
10:15-10:30 Networking Break
10:30-12:00 Ask the Attorneys Panel – Do you have Questions, Concerns, Policies, Procedure, Ideas or Plans that require some legal guidance? Now is your chance! Attorneys Panel: JOHN CLARK, Esq., TERENCE S.HANNIGAN, Esq., TIMOTHY C. HANNIGAN Hannigan, Esq., and WILLIAM N. YOUNG, JR. Esq. will be available to take questions from our attendees.
Four things a District Must do in a Public Relations Crisis
Four things a Fire District/Fire Department must do in a Public Relations Crisis
Fire Districts/Departments get themselves into trouble all the time and the public backlash can be especially fierce under the harsh glare of social media. While every crisis is different, there are certain important steps that they should take to avoid turning a crisis into a total disaster. All press releases should be developed by the authority having jurisdiction whether that is the Board of Fire Commissioners, Board of Directors or the Administrative Officers. There should be one message from one source by one spokesperson/PIO. The person delivering the message should be involved in developing the press releases and, should be confident and articulate. If the district or department does not have such a person, look to the outside for a credible person who has such qualities.
- Acknowledge and Apologize
Acknowledging the problem and issuing a swift apology is critical. The apology should be immediate and unconditional; that’s an important signal of the character of the organization. Make a statement quickly, have all stakeholders agree to the statement and be sure it does not come across as half hearted, it should be sincere.
- Identify the root cause of the crisis
Districts/departments should immediately work to understand the factors that caused a crisis. In an ideal scenario, the organization would commit to making the findings public. Transparency and a desire to be open and honest about the cause of the crisis is key to restoring trust with the public. It can also help protect against future crises.
- Make the necessary changes
Once the diagnosis of the root cause is clear, organizations need to act — and be seen to act — to make the changes that will prevent similar problems in the future. Make the changes public, not just an internal document, release it to the media. This is what went wrong, this is what we are doing to fix it and we’ll continue to monitor it. Only a full-scale intervention will be seen to be credible and authentic to the public.
- Ongoing evaluation of crisis response
Districts/departments need to understand that rebuilding trust with the public takes time. They should continue to evaluate their actions to ensure they are fully addressing the causes of the crisis. They also need to be transparent in their work and investigations, don’t keep it to yourself.
Budget Calendar for 2017
Budget Process Calendar for 2017
On or before September 26th 2017
Required Action Adopt proposed budget for 2018, including fund balance estimate for 2017 (Town Law [“TL”] §181).
File budget with fire district secretary (TL§181).
Post budget on fire district’s website (if district maintains as website) (TL§181).
Provide copy of proposed budget for 2018, including fund balance estimate for 2017 to town clerk of towns in which district is located. (no statutory reference, but best practice)
September 27th ; October 2nd 2017
Required Action Post notice of budget hearing on fire district website and signboard (if district maintains a website/signboard) (TL§175-c).
Provide copy of notice of budget hearing to town clerk of towns in which district is located. (Each town clerk must post the notice on their town’s website and on clerk’s bulletin board and town signboard)(TL§175-c).
Provide copy of notice of budget hearing to town clerk of towns and secretaries of fire districts with which district contracts. (Each town clerk and fire district secretary receiving notice must post it on the town or district website; town clerks must also post the notice on clerk’s bulletin board and town signboard) (TL§175c-).
Annual Date On or before 5 days prior to budget hearing
On or before October 12th 2017
Required Action Publish notice of budget hearing in official newspaper or, if not official newspaper, in newspaper having general circulation in district, and publicly post notice (TL§181[a]).
Post published notice on fire district’s website (if district maintains a website)(TL§181[a]).
Provide copy of proposed budget for public inspection to town clerk of towns in which district is located [see September 27th tasks stated above] (TL§181[a]).
Provide copy of published notice to town clerk of towns in which district is located (Each town clerk must post the notice on the town’s website and on the town signboard) (TL§181[a]).
After adopting proposed budget complete tax cap levy form for New York Comptroller’s Office and “save” but do not submit. Determine if proposed budget will exceed tax cap (GML§ 3-c(3))
On Tuesday October 17th 2017
Required Action Hold budget hearing (TL§181[a]). Required Action Hold budget hearing (TL§181[a]).
October 17st ; November 3rd 2017
Required Action Subject to certain restrictions, make changes, alternations and revisions to proposed budget (TL§181[b]).
Before adopting Fire District Annual Budget determine if the tax levy will exceed tax levy cap and if so the Fire District must pass a resolution by a 60% vote of its board to override the tax cap (GML§ 3-c(5))
On or before November 4th 2017
Required Action Before adopting Fire District Annual Budget and after passing any resolutions necessary to override the tax cap levy “submit” the Fire District budget/ tax cap form to the New York State Comptroller’s Office on the form prescribed by them. (GML3-c(7))
Adopt fire district annual budget (TL§181[b]).
On or before November 7th 2017
Required Action Fire district secretary delivers two (2) certified copies of fire district annual budget to town clerk of towns in which district is located (TL§181[c]) and obtains receipt.
Tax Cap Filing Tax Growth Factors
This year’s tax cap figure is 1.84% and the Special District growth factors which you need to file your tax cap information is listed by county at this OSC web site:
FAQ’s On the Cancer Bill Signed into Law on 10/22/17
FAQs on the Cancer Bill Signed by the Governor!!
A bill that would provide financial assistance for volunteer firefighters who develop certain kinds of cancer has been signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Q: Who qualifies?
A: Interior firefighters only
Q: What is the minimum length of service to qualify?
A: Five years as interior firefighter
Q: Are yearly mask-fit tests required?
A: Yes, at least five of them
Q: Is a physical required?
A: Yes, from entry into service and with no evidence of cancer at that time
Q: Is a diagnosis of cancer required to get the benefits?
A: Yes, diagnosis must be made after law goes into effect
Q: What cancers are covered?
A: Prostate, breast, lymphatic, hematological, digestive, urinary, neurological, reproductive and melanoma
Q: What does “presumptive” mean in this situation?
A: These cancers are automatically believed to be caused by exposure during firefighting
Q: Can firefighters collect for more than one diagnosis of these cancers?
Q: Where does the money come from?
A: The money comes from an insurance policy covering each and every interior firefighter
Q: Who pays for this?
A: The firefighter’s fire district, company or department or whoever currently pays for the VFBL coverage.
Q: How much can a firefighter receive?
A: There is a lifetime cap of $50,000.
Q: Is there a lump sum payment per diagnosis?
A: Yes, either $6,250 or $25,000, depending on the severity of the disease
Q: Is there a monthly payment upon total disability?
A: Yes, $1,500 a month for up to 36 months
Q: Is there any payment to beneficiaries of the firefighter if he or she dies?
A: Yes, $50,000
Q: Once signed into law, is there a deadline for start of coverage?
A: Yes, Jan. 1, 2019
Sources: Senate bill S1411B, Assembly bill A711B