A frequent question is if an individual can participate in more than one LOSAP at the same time. For volunteer firefighter LOSAPs in New York State, all active volunteer firefighters of a fire department/company that have met the minimum age requirement are eligible to participate in the LOSAP. In fact, participation is automatic unless the active volunteer firefighter signs a written form to waive the right to participate and earn benefits from the LOSAP.
As a reminder, the New York State LOSAP law defines an “active volunteer firefighter” as “a person who has been approved by the authorities in control of a duly organized volunteer fire company or volunteer fire department as an active volunteer firefighter of such fire company or department and who is faithfully and actually performing service in the protection of life and property from fire or other emergency, accident or calamity in connection with which the services of such fire company or fire department are required.” General Municipal Law Section 215(1).
Therefore, the issue is can an individual be an active volunteer firefighter in more than one fire company/department? The answer is no, and the reasons are found in Not-For-Profit Corporation Law, Town Law, and Village Law. The Office of the New York State Comptroller summarized these laws in Legal Opinion 91-23, which you can read here: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/legal-opinions/opinion-91-23
As stated at the top of the opinion, the opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. However, the laws quoted in the opinion have not changed as of the date of this blog post – so it remains fairly clear that an individual cannot be an active volunteer firefighter in more than one fire company. This means someone cannot simultaneously participate and earn benefits in more than one volunteer firefighter LOSAP in New York State.
This all being said, an individual could resign from one department then join a second department . In that case, if the person reached the vesting requirement in the LOSAP sponsored for the first fire department, and then subsequently becomes vested in the LOSAP for the second department, that person will ultimately collect two LOSAP benefits.
Finally, New York State General Municipal Law Articles 11-AA and 11-AAA provide that a LOSAP can be established for independent ambulance companies that are not operated under the control of a fire department. In this case, there is no prohibition from an individual being an active volunteer firefighter of a fire company/department and also a volunteer with an independent ambulance corps. In this case it would be possible for someone to be participating in two LOSAPs simultaneously – a volunteer firefighter LOSAP and a volunteer ambulance worked LOSAP.
If you have further questions, contact your local attorney or our office.