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An Overview of the Cancer Look-Back Bill

October 29, 2019 in

A bill recently signed into law in New York has granted additional protections to retired firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer post-retirement. Here, the General Counsel to the Uniformed Firefighters Association discusses the implications of the bill and how it positively impacts members of the FDNY. 

The Bill Recognizes the Heightened Risk for Firefighters to Be Diagnosed with Cancer Post-Retirement

Until now, with the exception of WTC-related illnesses, firefighters have been unable to have their pension reclassified as a line-of-duty pension if they are diagnosed with cancer post-retirement. This is despite the fact that firefighters are exposed to hundreds of carcinogens in the line of duty and develop cancer at much higher rates than the general population. Unfortunately for many firefighters, cancer is not diagnosed until after a firefighter has retired, leaving them to bear the burden of medical expenses alone.

Senate Bill S5246A, known commonly as the Cancer Look-Back Bill, seeks to protect firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer post-retirement by allowing them to apply for a disability pension up to five years after retirement. Cancers that are covered by this bill include lymphatic, digestive, hematological, urinary, neurological, breast, reproductive, or prostate cancer, as well as melanoma. The bill will proactively cover all firefighters who entered the Department in 2002 and thereafter.

It is important to note that this bill applies to all retired firefighters, not only firefighters who retire for service. As an example, a firefighter who retires due to an injury who is then diagnosed with cancer post-retirement also qualifies for a pension reclassification under this bill. Should the firefighter pass away due to their cancer diagnosis, the pension will be reallocated to their widow, helping firefighters protect their families’ financial wellbeing. 

The Bill Will Offer Retired Firefighters Access to Disability Pensions

TJ McManus, a member of SPBMC, the law firm that is General Counsel for the UFA, said, “This bill addresses an injustice that took place when a firefighter developed cancer after retirement for service. Previously, this firefighter would not have had their pension reclassified as a line of duty pension. Thus, despite developing these cancers as a result of their sacrifices and service to the City and its residents, firefighters were not being granted the benefits and medical coverage that they deserved because cancer can take time to show itself. As a result of the tireless efforts of the UFA, these members can now reclassify their pensions to line of duty and obtain the benefits and treatment that they deserve. It is imperative that we continue to recognize the health issues that befall our first responders and that we help those who commit their lives to protecting us.”

Speak to a Firefighter Law Attorney About Your Rights   

We at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C. are grateful to see additional protections put into place for New York City’s Bravest. The firefighters and fire officers of the New York City Fire Department regularly risk their lives and wellbeing in order to protect and serve the community. As the UFA’s General Counsel, we see it as our duty to stand with these brave men and women, serving as advocates and providing a full array of legal services and representation. To learn more about laws and regulations impacting firefighters in New York City, visit our informational site for UFA firefighters here. To receive consultation about injuries and other injustices suffered in the line of duty, contact SPBMC today.