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Glossary of WCB Terms

Volunteer Firefighter's and Volunteer Ambulance Worker's Guide to Workers' Compensation Benefits


Cash Benefits

Benefits are payable when the volunteer company responds as a unit, regardless of whether the injury occurred in the service of the home area or an aided area. Total disability, schedule loss or death benefits are fixed according to the statute. In determining weekly benefits for other types of injuries, the loss of earning capacity is based on the ability of the person to perform the work usually and ordinarily performed in his/her regular employment.

Earning capacity is the capability of a volunteer member to perform on a 5-day or 6-day basis the work normally done in regular employment at the time of injury, or other work that could be considered a reasonable substitute if there is no employment. Every volunteer member is considered to have an earning capacity. The Board determines the reasonable earning capacity, considering the work that he/she could reasonably be expected to obtain and for which he/she would be qualified by age, education, training and experience.

Benefits are payable from the first day of disability, with no waiting period. Necessary medical care is provided without regard to the length of the disability.

Schedule of Benefits for Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance Workers
Date of Accident Weekly Maximum
Total Disability
Weekly Maximum
Partial Disability
July 1, 1992 and after $400 $400
July 1, 1991 - June 30, 1992 $400 $350
July 1, 1990 - June 30, 1991 $400 $280

Note: As of January 1, 1999, the maximum benefit for volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers classified as totally and permanently disabled has increased to $400/week regardless of the date that the injury occurred.

In the event of death or disability due to disease or malfunction of the heart or coronary arteries, the claim must be decided within 90 days from the time the claim is received by the Board.

Supplemental Benefits

Supplemental benefits were made available to claimants thought to be most affected by rising costs. The combination of death benefits and supplemental benefits cannot exceed $215/wk. This is the rate that was in effect on January 1, 1979.

Widows or widowers receiving death benefits as a result of the death of their spouses prior to January 1, 1979, are eligible for supplemental benefits by making application to the Board. You may apply for these benefits by requesting and filing an application with the Workers' Compensation Board Finance Office at 328 State Street, Schenectady, NY 12305-2318.

Death Benefits

If a volunteer firefighter or ambulance worker dies from a compensable injury, the surviving spouse and/or minor children, or in the absence of such, other dependents as defined by law, are entitled to continuing weekly cash benefits, depending on the date of death. A minor child is one that is under the age of 18, or under age 25 if enrolled in an accredited educational institution. In no instance may the weekly benefit amount exceed the legal maximum, regardless of the number of dependents.

Surviving spouses who have not remarried and have no dependent children are entitled to the following weekly benefits:

Firefighters, for benefits paid after January 1, 2006

  • $130 per week if death occurred prior to Jan. 1, 1978;*
  • $250 per week if death occurred between Jan. 1, 1978 and June 30, 1978;
  • $360 per week if death occurred between July 1, 1978 and Dec. 31, 1978;
  • $477 per week if death occurred on or after Jan. 1, 1979;
  • $665 per week if death occurred on or after July 1, 1985;
  • $887 per week if death occurred on or after July 1, 1992.
* Weekly benefits may be increased to $215 by filing a supplemental benefits form with the Board.

Ambulance Workers, for benefits paid after January 1, 2006

  • $665 per week if death occurred between Jan. 1, 1989 and June 30, 1990;
  • $754 per week if death occurred between July 1, 1990 and June 30, 1991;
  • $776 per week if death occurred between July 1, 1991 and June 30, 1992;
  • $887 per week if death occurred on or after July 1, 1992.

Surviving spouses with dependent children are entitled to smaller weekly cash benefits. Children are also entitled to weekly cash benefits.

Weekly benefits for surviving spouses who remarry after January 1, 2006, and have no dependent children are replaced by the following lump sum benefit:

Firefighters

  • $13,142 if death occurred prior to Jan. 1, 1978;
  • $26,000 if death occurred between Jan. 1, 1978 and June 30, 1978;
  • $37,440 if death occurred between July 1, 1978 and Dec. 31, 1978;
  • $49,568 if death occurred on or after Jan. 1, 1979;
  • $69,164 if death occurred on or after July 1, 1985;
  • $92,219 if death occurred on or after July 1, 1992.

Ambulance Workers

  • $69,164 if death occurred between Jan. 1, 1989 and June 30, 1990;
  • $78,364 if death occurred between July 1, 1990 and June 30, 1991;
  • $80,692 if death occurred between July 1, 1991 and June 30, 1992;
  • $92,219 if death occurred on or after July 1, 1992.

Weekly benefits for surviving spouses who remarry and have dependent children are replaced by smaller lump sum benefits. Children continue to receive weekly benefits.

Funeral expenses are payable in a maximum amount of $6,700, when the death occurs on or after January 1, 2006. If a volunteer firefighter dies from injuries received in the line of duty as the direct result of fire fighting, the $6,700 maximum is not applicable. A lump sum benefit of $56,000 is paid to the surviving spouse, or to the estate if there is no surviving spouse, after January 1, 2006. These are in addition to all other benefits provided.

If a beneficiary claiming death benefits as a dependent or spouse of a volunteer member dies before a determination in his/her favor is made on the claim, all weekly benefits due from the date of death of the volunteer member up to the date of death of the eligible beneficiary will be paid to the executor or administrator of his/her estate.