WASHINGTON COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Chief James Brooks Jr. Act was officially signed into state law. The law will ensure that volunteer firefighters who suffer a vascular rupture are covered by the volunteer firefighter’s benefits law. This bill came to light after one Washington County family shared their story.
44-year-old Chief James Brooks was a member of the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company for 20 years and served as an Assistant Chief. Unfortunately, Jim passed away from work-related injuries in 2020. “He was reaching for something in his truck and around the truck when he felt the pain in his back which turned out later to be torn aorta. He was in a wheelchair and the only thing he had was the use of his right arm,” said Brian Brooks, Jim’s uncle. Brian is also the President of the Whitehall Fire Company.
Jim’s family was in complete shock when they later found out that Washington County and its third-party administrator Benetech refused to cover the nearly $1 million in outstanding medical bills. Brian says the county and Benetech insist that his injury was due to a preexisting condition. ”Jim had high blood pressure which he had been diagnosed with before and he was under mediation for that and under a doctor’s care. there was nothing that said he had a torn aorta, problems with his veins.”
Brian says his nephew’s story paints a clear picture of the true battles volunteer firefighters face if they become injured in the line of duty. Since the tragedy, Jim’s family has been fighting for to make a change and now their wish has come true and official when Governor Kathy Hochul signed the bill into law.
NYS Assemblywoman, Carrie Woerner, has sponsored 6 different pieces of legislation that were all recently signed into law, including the Chief James Brooks Jr. Act. Assemblymember Woerner has been in contact with the family since the beginning. “Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated our lives for the last year and a half, the business of the state legislature requires us to continue working on issues of all kinds to improve the lives of New Yorkers,” said Woerner.