Bills meant to aid volunteer firefighters and their health care coverage advanced this week in the New York state Senate, part of an effort to boost the ranks of services across New York.

The measures include making permanent a law that covers disability determinations for volunteer firefighters due to disease or a malfunction of the heart. A separate bill was also approved that provides coverage for lung disabilities. 

“Volunteer firefighters statewide often incur major diseases and ailments in the course of protecting our residents and businesses, so we must reciprocate and safeguard the health of these brave first responders whenever possible,” said state Sen. Peter Harckham. “These bills eliminate sunset clauses for heart and lung care while also streamlining access to these much deserved health benefits.”

The effort in part addresses a law initially approved in 1977 meant to provide health coverage for volunteer firefighters who suffer heart attacks while in the line of duty and address lengthy delays when they suffer injuries from heart attacks in the line of duty.

A law approved to expedite and handle the claims has been renewed every two years.

Separately, lawmakers approved the lung injury legislation that is meant to strengthen the bill by eliminating a clause that allows it to expire.

“We are grateful for Senator Harckham’s leadership in getting this important legislation passed in the Senate,” said John Farrell, the president of Firefighters Association of the State of New York. “Cardiac events remain the number one killer of firefighters annually across the country and lung issues are also a challenge many firefighters face.  Making these vital benefits permanent is very important to the over 80,000 volunteer firefighters in New York State.”