The federal fund created to compensate those sickened by the September 11 terrorist attacks just released initial rewards to 15 first responders.
Although the names of the responders were not released, The New York Times noted that 14 are firefighters and one, a correction officer. All were initial responders who were, for the most part, at the site of the attacks on the first day, according to Sheila Birnbaum, special master of the victims compensation fund. The fund’s value is estimated at $2.8 billion.
Birnbaum said none of the 15 were diagnosed with cancer and most were suffering from respiratory illnesses; the tax-free awards ranged in amount from $10,000 to $1.5 million, according to the Times; however, the amount awarded in this first round was not provided. These first claimants are only receiving 10 percent initially over uncertainty concerning how many will apply for the benefits. First responders, volunteers, workers, and residents exposed to the toxic cloud in Lower Manhattan following the terrorist attack are eligible to apply.
The fund expires October 2016, noted the Times. With thousands potentially eligible to collect, there is concern that—based on actuarial calculation—the fund would have to pay a total of $8.5 billion, which is much more than the fund has. “If our estimates have been too conservative and there’s money we can afford, we’ll give you another check,” Birnbaum said to the Times. Congressional approval for the $2.8 billion dollar fund and a $1.5 billion fund for health care and monitoring was received in 2010, said the Times.
Birnbaum said that $10,000 would be the lowest award amount, with the highest awards being for lost income for relatively young firefighters who were nearly or fully disabled, according to the Times, which pointed out that the awards are compensation-based and meant to cover lost wages; out-of-pocket medical expenses and health costs; and pain and suffering, based on one’s disability. Pensions, disability, court settlements, and other compensation are deducted from any award prior to payment.
Money has not been awarded for cancer, said Birnbaum, because no completed applications from cancer patients have been received, not due to a medical justly. “Each claim is looked at individually,” Birnbaum told the Times. “The type of illness is not important. What is important is your economic loss.” More than 16,000 people registered for the fund; 2,500 have moved on to the next step of submitting eligibility forms that prove their presence at a disaster site—the World Trade Center; the Pentagon; Shanksville, Pennsylvania; or the landfill and routes where terrorist debris was transported/taken. Only 190 submitted compensation forms and many do not have documentation, Birnbaum added, said the Times.
We previously wrote that a study found that rescue and recovery workers who responded to the terrorist attacks might be at an increased risk of certain types of cancers, noting that it may take years for these cancers to be diagnosed. As we’ve explained, the Zadroga Act, which was passed in December 2010, reopened the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for five years to provide payment for job and economic losses for first responders, those trapped in the buildings, and local residents, who suffered illness or injuries related to the toxic dust.
On the eve of the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, federal health officials finally acknowledged a link between toxic Ground Zero dust and cancer. At around the same time, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced that more than 50 different types of cancers would be covered under the Zadroga Act. The decision will allow financially strapped Ground Zero first responders, who’ve since developed cancer, to access funds to cover their soaring healthcare costs.
Researchers have said that exposure to dust, smoke, and other chemicals that lingered following the 9/11 attacks, may have put those nearby or who were involved in the clean-up at risk for developing a number of diseases, including cancer. The Zadroga Act provides health monitoring and care for those affected by the attacks through 2016, which is before some related cancers might be diagnosed.