A 9/11 First Responder Continues to Fight for Benefits

Many 9/11 first responders continue to cope with the adverse reactions that followed the September 11th terrorist attacks. In once case, a man reached out to NY1.com for assistance just a few months following the attacks.

With the 15th anniversary of the attacks, a former paramedic and first responder said he still feels the effects. According to Marvin Bethea, a veteran paramedic of 25 years, he suffers from “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, pulmonary fibrosis, stroke,” according to NY1.com, which has been following his progress over the past 15 years. Most recently, he went into cardiac arrest and suffered a second stroke. He is now unable to swallow and must be fed through a tube.

Bethea suffered a stroke while he was still working just after the attacks. He was significantly concerned over his benefits and lost wages, NY1.com reported. His union agreed to extend these benefits. He attempted to return to work, but was forced to retire because of his poor health; he was subsequently rejected for Social Security benefits and denied disability pension.

“You can’t tell me that, ‘Okay, you’re good enough to put in harm’s way, and we can throw you into a fire and if you don’t get burned that’s great, but if you do get burned, now we don’t know you,'” Bethea told NY1.com.

After years of seeking help, Bethea finally received his disability benefits and assistance from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) and the James Zadroga 9/11 World Trade Center (WTC) Health and Compensation Act. He is still seeking federal Public Safety Officer Benefit for which he was denied because he worked for a private hospital. Today, he is under 24-hour nursing care, according to NY1.com.

“At the time of 9/11, the private hospitals made up 40 percent of the EMS system in NYC,” he told NY1.com.

In the years following the attacks, researchers determined that the thick plume of dust and debris that followed the collapse of the World Trade Center towers contained a toxic mix of compounds including asbestos, lead, pulverized cement, jet fuel, and other chemicals.

Many area residents and workers were exposed to these toxins and carcinogens and have since been diagnosed with an array of illnesses, including asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and over 50 types of cancer. Tragically, many have succumbed to their illnesses in the years since the attacks. In fact, by year-end 2015, at least 4,166 cancer diagnoses had been linked to exposure to the toxic cloud that hovered over Manhattan; the number is expected to increase.

Meanwhile, the VCF just agreed to review the statue of limitations on older cases using the certification date issued by the WTC Health Program; a state workers’ compensation board; or a government employer, including the New York Police Department (NYPD), the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), or the New York City Employee Retirement System (NYCERS) for the purpose of awarding a disability pension over illnesses attributed to exposure during and following the 9/11 attacks.

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