The number of WTC rescuers diagnosed with cancer has risen to over 2,518, according to the according to the World Trade Center Health Program at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. This figure has more than doubled from last year, which reported that 1,140 out of 37,000 police, rescue workers and volunteers had cancer. This year, that number rose to 1,655. In addition to 863 firefighters, the total is up to a tragic 2,518.
Many rescuers are seeking compensation for their illnesses through the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund (VCF). On January 2, 2011, President Obama reopened this fund by signing into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, which is named in honor of the late NYPD officer James L. Zadroga.
According to UK’s Mirror, 1,145 cancer claims were processed by the VCF at the end of June; 881 were declared serious enough to garner compensation while the others are still under review. Submissions from nearby residents accounted for 17 of the claims. Currently, 115 claims have been resolved for a total of $50.5 million. The lowest award was $400,000 and the highest was $4.1 million.
Many are frustrated by how long it is taking to compensate the victims, especially since some are seriously ill. A recently retired New York Fire Department captain said “I just don’t understand why they’re making everyone wait two years,” The firefighter, 63, had closed off the Brooklyn Bridge on the day of the attack so that he and his crew could help with the rescue efforts. A compensation hearing was brought to tears when he recounted his story in May.
The firefighter was forced to retire six years ago due to lung damage and breathing complications associated with exposure to toxic dust at Ground Zero. Last year, a large tumor was discovered wrapping itself around his arteries. “They couldn’t take it out without killing me,” he told to a New York newspaper. His condition has deteriorated dramatically after enduring chemotherapy and radiation. “I was a very active guy. Now there’s not much I can do.” He said.
The firefighter said he was grateful for the compensation, but is concerned about the lengthy process. “I just don’t understand why they’re making everyone wait two years,” he said. “I’m hoping they rush more cases like mine, where we’re not expected to last long. I knew that day that a lot of us would get sick.”