Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation to provide enhanced disability retirement benefits for Tier 3 and Tier 6 New York City firefighters. Once the law takes effect, all New York City firefighters who become disabled while in the line of duty are eligible for disability equal to three-quarters of their pension. Governor Cuomo signed the bill accompanied by Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy and state and local elected officials today in New York City.
"Firefighters put their lives on the line every day to keep New Yorkers safe, and we must do everything we can to support them and their families," Governor Cuomo said. "By restoring the three-quarter pension retirement plan, we are providing our heroes with the financial stability that they need and deserve. This legislation corrects an inequality against New York City's Bravest that has gone on for far too long, and I am proud to sign it into law today."
Currently, the vast majority of municipal fire departments in New York State provide disability benefits equal to three-quarters of the individual’s pension to firefighters who become disabled from line of duty injuries. New York City firefighters were among those with benefits equal to 75 percent of the pension until 2009 when a state law was not renewed, and thus the eligibility for new hires was reduced to 50 percent of the pension.
This legislation signed today restores three-quarters pension benefits for New York City firefighters who become disabled from line of duty injuries. The legislation affects firefighters hired since 2009 as well as new hires – both groups who would otherwise only be eligible for 50 percent. The legislation includes the following provisions, which provide:
- 75 percent accidental disability retirement with a lung disease presumption.
- Accidental disability retirement and ordinary disability retirements benefits are based on a five-year final average salary, without any reduction for Social Security benefits, and with cost of living adjustments.
- Members will make 2-3 percent contributions for these benefits in addition to the current 3 percent member contributions that are already required.
Firefighters put their lives on the line every day to keep New Yorkers safe, and we must do everything we can to support them and their families.
In addition, the social security offset will be eliminated. New York City Tier 3 firefighters may opt-in if hired before June 15, 2016, and all new hires will be automatically enrolled. The bill (S8015/A10567) was passed unanimously in the Senate and with an overwhelming majority in the Assembly.
Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy said, "With this critical legislation, New York City Firefighters who put their lives on the line protecting the public will never have to worry about leaving themselves and their families destitute should they be seriously injured in the line of duty. All New Yorkers are now safer because of the restoration of these necessary benefits. I want to thank Gov. Cuomo for once again proving himself to be a great champion of New York’s Bravest."
New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO President Vincent Alvarez said, "When a fire alarm sounds, NYC firefighters jump into action without hesitation, putting their health and well-being aside to protect those in need. The sacrifices firefighters make aren't based on their hire date, but on their commitment to saving lives. I commend President Steve Cassidy and the UFA for their work in restoring the disability pension protections, and ensuring that firefighters who are injured in the line of duty receive the financial assistance they need and deserve. The law signed by Governor Cuomo today will go a long way to support NY's Bravest who selflessly protect our city."
Senator Martin Golden said, "Each day our brave firefighters are ready to run toward danger and put their lives on the line to save others. Many times these brave men and women are hurt in the line of duty. It is our responsibility to ensure our heroes have strong disability protections so they do not have to worry about the financial and medical burdens of being injured. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law and saying loud and clear that New York State takes care of its heroes."
Assemblyman Peter Abbate said, "Restoring equity among the brave men and women who go on disability within New York City's fire department was one of my top legislative priorities and I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law. Fire fighters who serve the city valiantly deserve to be treated fairly and this legislation will ensure that they receive their full ¾ disability benefits no matter when they started working."
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