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Law extends health benefits to ex-NYPD officers with 9/11 maladies

Cadets salute during the NYPD Police Academy graduation

Cadets salute during the NYPD Police Academy graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan on April 1, 2016. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

ALBANY — A new law signed Monday will provide for unlimited line-of-duty sick leave benefits to former New York City police officers who became ill after responding to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and now work for other police agencies.

The law closes a gap in which former NYPD officers were facing an end to their allowance of sick days under their new employers on Long Island and elsewhere. It applies to officers who are verified to have worked on the rescue, recovery and cleanup of the terror attacks and are suffering from cancer and other maladies from that service.

“It is critical that we honor these courageous efforts and by signing this bill into law today, we make it clear that New York stands behind the first responders in their time of need, just as they stood with New York on that tragic day 16 years ago,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said as he signed the bill into law. “Our message is simple: We will always have your back.”

Former NYPD officers now working in other departments, including on Long Island, lobbied the State Legislature to pass the bill even as they fought through the pain of their cancer and other illnesses. The situation had become dire for some officers who had exhausted their sick days under their new employers and new benefit packages while receiving treatment, advocates said. Many have had to rely on donated sick days from colleagues.

Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), a former police officer and the law’s sponsor, said the measure will help thousands of men and women.

“The first responders who led recovery efforts on that day, and the weeks and months that followed, deserve the very best health care and assistance New York has to offer,” he said Monday.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who worked with the police officers in a blitz of lobbying late in June as the legislative session was coming to a close, called the new law “a bright ray of hope in an otherwise very somber and difficult day.”

“To have heroes of 9/11 faced with greater financial difficulty was very hard to watch,” Kaminsky said.

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