Health and Compensation for 9/11 Recovery Workers
Author: The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C.
Original Publication Date: 2011-03-30
Updated - Revised Date: 2013-06-11
Synopsis and Key Points:
Compensation for people who suffer long term injury from exposure to toxic elements at Ground Zero including recovery for lost wages due to disability pain and suffering.
Main DigestIn the aftermath of the attack on the Twin Towers, government officials assured recovery workers that the air around Ground Zero was safe to breathe. A mere five years later they were proven wrong when the first public worker died due to toxic chemicals exposure from the World Trade Center debris.
How It All Began: The History of the Zadroga Act
In January 2006, NYPD Detective James Zadroga, who had spent hundreds of hours working in the rubble at Ground Zero as part of the 9/11 recovery efforts, died of respiratory failure linked to exposure from the toxic dust.
According to CBS News, 34-year-old Zadroga was the first New York City police officer whose death was linked directly to the toxic chemicals at Ground Zero.
Following Zadroga's death, then-New York Governor George Pataki signed a state bill that expanded death benefits for families of city workers who were part of Ground Zero recovery efforts and later died from respiratory illnesses or certain cancers.
In a joint effort, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced a similar bill at the federal level in 2006. The proposed bill, which did not pass, would have provided health monitoring and financial aid to sick 9/11 recovery workers.
In February 2009, Representative Maloney introduced a modified version of the bill that later became known as the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. The House passed it 19 months later, in September 2010. The Senate passed a stripped-down version of it as the 2010 Congressional session drew to a close on December 22, 2010.
Federal Funding: Compensation Under the Zadroga Act
Thanks to the $4.3 billion approved by Congress under the Zadroga Act, first responders, police officers and firefighters who helped with the recovery efforts at Ground Zero can now receive additional health monitoring and medical treatment for the long-term ill effects of the cleanup.
Of the $4.3 billion, $1.8 billion has been set aside for monitoring and treatment of public employees who were exposed to toxic chemicals in the debris and dust of the World Trade Center. It is expected that $1.8 billion will cover most treatment costs, and New York City will pay for the remaining medical costs.
The Act reopens the Victim Compensation Fund (that was part of the original 9/11 bill passed in the weeks immediately following September 11, 2001). The Victim Compensation Fund primarily provided compensation to surviving families of those who were killed when the towers collapsed, based largely on lost future wages. Some injured victims were also paid from the fund. The fund closed in 2003, long before many Ground Zero recovery workers were formally diagnosed with health complications.
The Zadroga Act finances the Victim Compensation Fund with $2.5 billion. Those monies are being provided for economic compensation for anyone - not only public employees - who suffers long-term injury from exposure to the toxic elements at Ground Zero. This includes recovery for lost wages due to disability and compensation for pain and suffering.
Protecting the Health of Heroes: The Effects of the Zadroga Act
Following the Senate's passage of the bill on December 22, 2010, Senator Menendez said, "James Zadroga was a New Jersey resident and New York City police officer who selflessly spent 450 hours at Ground Zero helping the recovery efforts, breathing toxic air with nothing to protect his lungs but a paper mask. In fact, for nine years a paper mask was all that heroes like James were ever given to protect their health. Today, that changed."
It is unclear exactly how many individuals have been impacted by the Ground Zero toxins. New York City's Department of Health estimates that 70,000 people might have long-term health problems due to the dust. The dust from the World Trade Center debris contained asbestos, lead, mercury and numerous other dangerous carcinogens.
In February 2009, it was reported that over 13,000 recovery workers had already died or were sick and currently receiving treatment. It is estimated that another 40,000 were being monitored for ill effects.
Those suffering from toxin exposure are not limited solely to firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and other first responders. Construction workers, residents, clergy, and local merchants and employees working near Ground Zero also have become sick from long-term exposure to toxic dust.
Injuries from the polluted air and toxic chemical exposure have been related to a number of respiratory and gastrointestinal system conditions, including:
- Cancer, such as leukemia, sarcoma, lymphoma, mesothelioma
- Asthma and chronic cough (dubbed "World Trade Center cough")
- Lung disease and lung cancer
- Sarcoidosis in the lungs
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Many injured individuals are optimistic about the assistance the Zadroga Act will provide. One former police officer struggling with damaged lungs noted, "It's a relief to know that my family is not going to be saddled with thousands and thousands of medical bills in case things don't work out."
If you have suffered injury as a result to toxin exposure at Ground Zero, you may be entitled to money under the Zadroga Act - even if you received previous compensation from insurance, workers' compensation or a lawsuit. For help filing a claim for compensation under the Zadroga Act contact a New York attorney experienced in helping injured recovery workers and victims' families following the 9/11 attack.
Article provided by The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. - Visit us at www.perecman.com
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