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Volunteer Firefighters Urge Gov. Cuomo to Sign Cancer Coverage Bill

John Smith

Central New York firefighters and state officials gathered in Chittenango Thursday to urge Governor Cuomo to sign a bill that would provide coverage for presumptive cancers contracted by volunteer firefighters. Senator David Valesky says both the Senate and Assembly strongly supported the bill.

"There's overwhelming support in communities across the state that matches the overwhelming and unanimous support in both houses of the legislature.  The bill will be scheduled to be delivered to the governor, the support is solid, and we're confident and hopeful that he'll take the correct action."  

Retired volunteer firefighter and current board member with the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York Brian McQueen says firefighters are two times more likely to get cancer than the general public. He explains that despite being exposed to the same fires and health risks as paid firefighters, volunteers don’t receive the same coverage.

"The cost of treating cancer can be extremely because it includes co-pays.   Travel expenses to reach treatment centers, lost wages from not being able to work.  Just last week, my wife and I traveled to Sloan Memorial Cancer Center in New York City to get my scans and treatments.  Two days of treatments in New York City, the scans, the appointments, the cost of travel, the cost of a hotel stay, comes out of my pocket."

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi explains that many volunteer firefighters have full time jobs that provide some coverage for cancer treatment but still have out of pocket expenses. He says the bill will cover those leftover expenses, allowing complete coverage. Brindisi says it’s the least the state can do for the volunteers.

"There are over 100,000 [volunteers] spanning from Long Island to western New York.  You look at the cost savings our state and local's in the millions.  Then when you look at what they're doing to risk their lives, you have to ask what is the state doing to back them up?"

Officials hope to have Governor Cuomo’s signature by the end of this year. 

Credit John Smith / WAER News

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at