New York Survivor Benefits

Updated November 2018

ONE-TIME DEATH BENEFIT

Volunteer Firefighters: The spouse or administrator of the estate of a deceased volunteer firefighter shall be paid a lump sum of $56,000.

Contact:

New York State Workers’ Compensation Board
Statewide Administrative Office
328 State Street
Schenectady, NY 12305-2318

Mailing Address:

New York State Workers’ Compensation Board
Centralized Mailing Address
PO Box 5205
Binghamton, NY 13902-5205
Phone: (877) 632-4996
Fax: (877) 533-0337
E-mail: general_information@wcb.ny.gov
Website: www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/firefighters/volunteer-firefighters.jsp

(Reference: N.Y. Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit, Section 7)

Career Firefighters: Upon the death in the line of duty of a regular member of a fire department in a county not wholly contained within a city, a city having a population of less than one million, or a town, village, or other subdivision of government or municipality, the municipality shall pay to the surviving spouse or dependent children an amount equal to the salary received either during the year immediately preceding death, or during the year preceding such injuries, whichever is greater, and $1,000 or 10% of the deceased member’s final salary, whichever is higher, payable for each child of such member under eighteen on the date of the member’s death.

There is also the Survivor’s Benefit Program for New York State Employees. This is a program designed to give a minimum death benefit to all NYS Employees. It gives a one-time payment of between $2,000 and $10,000, depending on several factors such as if the firefighter’s beneficiaries are to receive money from the retirement system.

Contact:

New York State and Local Retirement System
Survivor’s Benefit Program
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244-0001
Phone: (518) 474-7736 or (866) 805-0990 (toll free)
E-mail: Contact Us Form
Website: www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/publications/vo1655.php

(Reference: N.Y. General Municipal Laws, Section 208-B)

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

Career Firefighters: Note that while uniformed members of the FDNY are not eligible for compensation under Workers’ Compensation law, but are eligible for a payment of no less than $40,000 should the death occur directly or indirectly as a result of any neglect, omission, willful or culpable negligence of any person other than the deceased.

If the deceased leaves a spouse and no dependent children, the spouse shall receive 66-2/3% of the deceased’s Average Weekly Wage per week until death or remarriage. Upon remarriage, the spouse shall receive a lump sum payment equal to two years worth of the deceased’s Average Weekly Wage.

If the deceased leaves one or more dependent children and no spouse, the dependent children shall receive the same 66-2/3% per week, split equally.

If the deceased leaves a spouse and one or more dependent children, the spouse shall receive 36-2/3% of the AWW per week while all dependent children split the remaining 30%. Should the spouse remarry before all children are no longer dependent, the spouse shall receive the same lump sum described above. If after remarriage there remain dependent children, one dependent child shall receive 30% per week, two dependent children shall each receive 25% per week, and more than two dependent children shall equally share 66-2/3%.

If the deceased leaves neither child nor spouse, dependent grandchildren and siblings shall receive 25% each per week, while dependent parents and grandparents shall receive 40% each per week. 66-2/3% of the AWW is still the total weekly maximum.

If there are no dependents, a lump sum of $50,000 shall be paid to the deceased’s surviving parents or the deceased’s estate.

Children are dependent while under the age of 18, or 23 if enrolled as a full time student in any accredited educational institution, or while blind or physically disabled. Should a grandchild or sibling be dependent upon the deceased, these same dependency requirements apply.

If the spouse is receiving survivor insurance benefits under the social security act, the benefits described here may be reduced by up to 50%, based on the spouse’s share of the survivors insurance benefits and number of dependent children.

Volunteer Firefighter: All weekly benefits outlined below shall accrue as of the date of death of the volunteer fireman. If a volunteer firefighter or their dependents receive any of the benefits outlined below, they shall not receive other worker’s compensation benefits. In no instance, may the weekly benefit amount exceed the legal maximum, regardless of the number of dependents. The current legal maximum per week is $887.

If the deceased leaves a spouse and no dependent children, the spouse shall receive $887 per week until death or remarriage. Upon remarriage, the spouse shall receive a lump sum payment of $92,219.

If the deceased leaves one or more dependent children and no spouse, the dependent children shall receive $887 per week, split equally.

If the deceased leaves a spouse and one or more dependent children, the spouse shall receive $487 per week while all dependent children split the remaining $400. Should the spouse remarry before all children are no longer dependent, the spouse shall receive $50,720. If after remarriage there remain dependent children, one dependent child shall receive $400 per week, two dependent children shall each receive $333 per week, and more than two dependent children shall equally share $887.

If the deceased leaves neither child nor spouse, dependent grandchildren and siblings shall receive $333 each per week, while dependent parents and grandparents shall receive $532 each per week. $887 is still the total weekly maximum.

Children are dependent while under the age of 18, or 25 if enrolled as a full time student in any accredited educational institution, or while blind or physically disabled. Should a grandchild or sibling be dependent upon the deceased, these same dependency requirements apply.

Contact:

New York State Workers’ Compensation Board
Statewide Administrative Office
328 State Street
Schenectady, NY 12305-2318

Mailing Address:

New York State Workers’ Compensation Board
Centralized Mailing Address
PO Box 5205
Binghamton, NY 13902-5205
Phone: (877) 632-4996
Fax: (877) 533-0337
E-mail: general_information@wcb.ny.gov
Website: www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/firefighters/volunteer-firefighters.jsp

(Reference: N.Y. Workers’ Compensation Law, Section 16. N.Y. General Municipal Law, Section 205-A. N.Y. Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit, Sections 7, 7A, 56)

FUNERAL BENEFIT

Career Firefighter: The reasonable funeral expenses of the deceased paid firefighter shall be paid in an amount not exceeding $12,500 in Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, and $10,500 in all other counties. There shall be no such limit when a paid firefighter dies from injuries received in the line of duty as a direct result of firefighting.

Volunteer Firefighter: The reasonable funeral expenses of the deceased volunteer firefighter shall be paid in an amount not exceeding $6,700. There shall not be a limit when a volunteer firefighter dies from injuries received in the line of duty as a direct result of firefighting.

Contact:

New York State Workers’ Compensation Board
Statewide Administrative Office
328 State Street
Schenectady, NY 12305-2318

Mailing Address:

New York State Workers’ Compensation Board
Centralized Mailing Address
PO Box 5205
Binghamton, NY 13902-5205
Phone: (877) 632-4996
Fax: (877) 533-0337
E-mail: general_information@wcb.ny.gov
Website: www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/firefighters/volunteer-firefighters.jsp

(Reference: N.Y. Worker’s Compensation Law, Section 16. N.Y. Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit, Section 7)

COMPENSATION FOR DEATH OR DISABILITY OF FIREFIGHTERS FROM OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES

Career Firefighters: Any condition of impairment of health caused by diseases of the heart, resulting in disability or death to a firefighter shall be presumptive evidence that it was incurred in the performance and discharge of duty and the natural and proximate result of an accident, unless the contrary be proved by competent evidence.

Any condition of impairment of health caused by diseases of the lung resulting in disability or death to a paid firefighter who successfully passed a physical examination which failed to reveal any evidence of such condition upon entry into the service, shall be presumptive evidence that the disability or death was sustained in the performance and discharge of duty and caused by the natural and proximate result of an accident, not caused by such firefighter’s own willful negligence. This presumption can be overturned by competent evidence to the contrary.

Firefighters who contract HIV, tuberculosis or hepatitis after contact with members of the public where there may have been an exposure to a bodily fluid will be presumed to have contracted such disease in the performance or discharge of their duties as the natural and proximate result of an accident.

Any melanoma or condition of cancer affecting the lymphatic, digestive, hematological, urinary, neurological, breast, reproductive, or prostate systems, resulting in disability or death to a paid firefighter who successfully passed a physical examination which failed to reveal any evidence of such condition upon entry into the service, shall be presumptive evidence that the disability or death was sustained in the performance and discharge of duty and caused by the natural and proximate result of an accident, not caused by such firefighter’s own willful negligence. This presumption can be overturned by competent evidence to the contrary.

Volunteer Firefighters: Any condition of impairment of health caused by diseases of the lung, resulting in total or partial disability or death to a volunteer firefighter shall be presumed to be incurred in the performance of duty and not through the firefighter’s own negligence, so long as the firefighter successfully passed a physical examination on entry into such service or during their tenure.

Note that this has been repealed with an effective end date of 30 June 2020.

A claim for benefits for the death or disability of a volunteer fireman due to disease or malfunction of the heart or of one or more coronary arteries shall not be denied provided the claimant introduces evidence which establishes the malfunction occurred due to their work as a firefighter and such malfunction caused the injury or death. Substantial evidence to the contrary may overturn this claim.

Note that this has been repealed with an effective end date of 1 July 2020.

Cancers which affect the prostate or breast, lymphatic, hematological digestive, urinary, neurological, or reproductive systems, or melanoma are covered under state law. Volunteer firefighters with five of more years of service who passed a physical examination upon entry to the service shall be eligible to receive the following benefits:

A lump sum benefit of $25,000 for each diagnosis of cancer with one or more malignant tumors with metastasis requiring treatment, or a terminal diagnosis;

A lump sum benefit of $6,250 for each diagnosis of cancer with carcinoma in situ such that surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy has been determined to be medically necessary, or malignant tumors which are treated by endoscopic procedures alone, or malignant melanomas;

And an additional payment of $50,000 payable to such volunteer or his or her beneficiary upon acceptable proof by a board certified physician that such firefighter’s death resulted from complications associated with cancer.

Total payments from the first two benefits listed above for a firefighter shall not exceed $50,000 over the course of their lifetime. Volunteer firefighters shall be ineligible for these benefits if they are already provided paid firefighter benefits. Eligible volunteer firefighters shall remain eligible for 60 months after formal cessation of their status as an active volunteer firefighter.
Note that this is a new law, effective starting 1 Jan 2019

(Reference: N.Y. Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit, Sections 11-C*2, Section 61. N.Y. General Municipal Laws, Section 205-CC. N.Y. Retirement & Social Security Law, Sections 363-A, 363-D, 363-DD, 363-F)

RETIREMENT/PENSION PLAN

Volunteer Firefighters: New York’s General Municipal Law authorizes the establishment of defined benefit service award programs to provide municipally funded, pension-like benefits for volunteer firefighters. In general, defined benefit volunteer firefighter service award programs may be adopted by political subdivisions for the volunteer firefighters. While the specifics of these programs, known as Length of Service Awards Programs (LOSAP), vary by political subdivision, any such program must allow for a volunteer firefighter’s survivors to receive the participant’s service award. Approximately 600 fire districts and municipalities across the State have established a LOSAP; please contact your volunteer fire department for specific information.

Career Firefighters: Many firefighters in the state of New York are part of the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). The following are the pension benefits for PFRS members. Please reach out to your fire department for benefit information if the deceased was not covered by PFRS.

The pension shall be equal to one-half of the member’s final average salary. A one-time payment equal to the member’s accumulated contributions to the PFRS shall also be fully refunded.

There shall also be a “special accident death benefit”, which is a pension equal to the salary of the deceased member reduced by the sum of the pension and the Social Security benefit. If the death occurred prior to 2018, this special accident death benefit may be increased by a set percentage to reflect cost-of-living changes.

The salary used to compute the special accidental death benefit will not be less than either the full salary you would have earned in the highest grade-step; or, if you were in the highest grade-step of a supervisory position, the salary that would have been payable to a police superior officer or a fire officer.

These benefits shall go to a surviving spouse for the remainder of their life, or to the dependent children to be split equally among them until the last is no longer a dependent, or to the deceased’s parents for life, in that order.

If the firefighter’s survivors receive any benefits under Workers’ Compensation, their pension benefit shall be reduced by the amount of the concurrent workers’ compensation benefits.

Contact:

New York State and Local Retirement System
Survivor’s Benefit Program
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244-0001
Phone: (518) 474-7736 or (866) 805-0990 (toll free)
E-mail: Contact Us Form
Website: www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/publications/vo1655.php

(Reference: N. Y. General Municipal Law, Section 218. N.Y. Retirement & Social Security Law, Sections 361, 361A)

EDUCATION BENEFIT – CHILDREN

The New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) offers the NYS Memorial Scholarship to children, spouses and financial dependents of firefighters, both career and volunteer, who have died in the line of duty in service to the state of New York. This scholarship can be applied to any approved post-secondary institution in New York State for an undergraduate degree.

The scholarship covers both tuition and non-tuition costs. For tuition, the scholarship shall cover an amount equal to the actual tuition or the State University of New York’s (SUNY) in-state tuition, whichever is less. For non-tuition costs, such as room and board, books, supplies and transportation the scholarship shall cover an amount up to the non-tuition cost allowances at SUNY colleges. On-campus students will receive a higher allowance than commuter or off-campus students, unless housing is not available on-campus.

Contact:

New York State Higher Education Services Corporation
99 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12255
Phone: (518) 473-1574
Toll Free: (888) 697-4372
E-mail: scholarships@hesc.ny.gov
Website: www.hesc.ny.gov


EDUCATION BENEFIT – SPOUSE

The New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) offers the NYS Memorial Scholarship to children, spouses and financial dependents of firefighters, both career and volunteer, who have died in the line of duty in service to the state of New York. This scholarship can be applied to any approved post-secondary institution in New York State for an undergraduate degree.

The scholarship covers both tuition and non-tuition costs. For tuition, the scholarship shall cover an amount equal to the actual tuition or the State University of New York’s (SUNY) in-state tuition, whichever is less. For non-tuition costs, such as room and board, books, supplies and transportation the scholarship shall cover an amount up to the non-tuition cost allowances at SUNY colleges. On-campus students will receive a higher allowance than commuter or off-campus students, unless housing is not available on-campus.

Contact:

New York State Higher Education Services Corporation
99 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12255
Phone: (518) 473-1574
Toll Free: (888) 697-4372
E-mail: scholarships@hesc.ny.gov
Website: www.hesc.ny.gov


NON-PROFIT OR PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS

The Silver Shield Foundation

870 United Nations Plaza, 1st Floor
New York, NY 10017
Phone: (212) 832-1100
Fax: (212) 832-1102
Website:http://www.silvershieldfoundation.org/
E-mail: kcfuchs@silvershieldfoundation.org (K. C. Fuchs – Chief Operating Officer) or bw10022@gmail.com (William G. Walters – Co-Chairman)

The Silver Shield Foundation covers the children and spouse of all members of the Fire Department of the City of New York. They provide financial assistance for prep school, college and university undergraduate and graduate school, and vocational and technical school for children and spouses, as well as academic tutoring services, college preparation services, counseling and bereavement services, and an annual comprehensive medical exam for surviving spouses.

The 100 Club of Buffalo

1967 Wehrle Drive
Suite #1 PMB 150
Buffalo, New York 14221
Phone: (716) 209-3112
E-mail: Contact Us Form
Website: https://100clubbuffalo.org

The 100 Club of Buffalo is an independent, nonprofit, nonpolitical organization whose sole purpose is to provide service to the members of local law enforcement, fire and emergency medical service agencies and their families. They focus on the Western part of New York State and offer pro-bono (no-cost) legal assistance and financial assistance for families, assistance with funeral arrangements and financial support for burial expenses, assistance for families when making a death benefit claim under the Public Safety Officer Benefit (PSOB) program, and raises and distributes funds for scholarships.

Firemen’s Association of the State of New York

107 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12210-2269
Phone: (518) 434-0987
Toll Free: (800) 232-7692
Website:https://fasny.com/
E-mail: FASNY@FASNY.com

FASNY has a 24-hour Accidental Death & Dismemberment group policy for all of its members. This policy pays out $10,000 for any bodily injury or non-duty death, and $20,000 for any firefighter who died while participating in, including travel directly to and from, any fire suppression or emergency response; any rescue or emergency medical activity; or any training exercise. Career and Volunteer firefighters are eligible to be members of FASNY.

The International Association of Fire Fighters

1750 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006
Website: client.prod.iaff.org/#contentid=1743

The W. H. “Howie” McClennan scholarship provides financial assistance for sons, daughters or legally adopted children of IAFF Union Members killed in the line of duty planning to attend a university, accredited college or other institution of higher learning. Scholarship amount is $2,500 per year, renewable up to 4 consecutive years.


HEALTH INSURANCE

For a career or volunteer firefighter covered by the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP), dependents covered by the enrollee at the time of death or newborn children of the enrollee born after the enrollee’s death are eligible for dependent survivor coverage. Each dependent survivor is eligible to continue NYSHIP coverage in their own right. Dependents covered at the time of the enrollee’s death will continue to receive coverage without charge for a period of three months beyond the last month for which the enrollee paid for NYSHIP coverage. After that three month period, dependents may be required to pay the full premium but can continue with coverage so long as they are considered dependent.

Please check with the department’s Health Benefits Administrator for contribution rates and coverage.

Contact:

Health Insurance and Employee Benefits
New York State Department of Civil Service

Empire State Plaza
Swan Street Building – 1st Floor
Albany, NY 12239
Phone: (518) 457-5754 or (800) 833-4344
E-mail: pio@cs.ny.gov
Website:www.cs.ny.gov/nyship/


TAX ABATEMENT

While there are no state wide tax abatement laws for the survivors of fallen firefighters, various laws have been enacted that authorize certain counties to provide property tax abatement to volunteer firefighters and their survivors. Contact your county government or volunteer fire department to see if this applies.

(Reference: N.Y. Tax Law, Section 606)

FUNERAL & CREMATION BENEFITS

Dignity Memorial

Phone: (800) 343-4464
Website: www.dignitymemorial.com

Dignity Memorial is a consortium of funeral, cremation and cemetery providers across the United States and Canada. They have a Public Servants Program for first responders and emergency services workers. Dignity provides these services, at no cost, for career and volunteer firefighters who are killed in the line of duty. There is a location finder per state on the website, and funeral directors are encouraged to contact Dignity regarding the first responder program.

Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc.

2913 Gardner Road
Broadview, IL 50155
Phone: 708-681-7040 (Terry Whitlock)
Website: www.wilbert.com

Wilbert provides complimentary burial vaults (including urns vaults) for fallen law enforcement officers and firefighters through 193 licensee locations. Funeral directors should contact Wilbert for information on obtaining vaults.


COUNTY & LOCAL JURISDICTION BENEFITS


Disclaimer: The material contained in the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Survivor Benefits website is not the result of legal research, but rather is based on a scan of public documents. We have made every effort to be accurate and timely, but errors may exist. The material on this website is advisory only and should not be cited as evidence or proof that a benefit exists or that our facts are accurate. Always consult the decedent’s fire department for benefits assistance, or a benefits’ attorney. If, in the course of your own research, you see errors of fact, or new benefit information, please pass this information along to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.