After September 11, 2001, more than 91,000 rescue, recovery, and cleanup workers worked at the Ground Zero Crash Site Area in the days, weeks, and months following the attacks helping New York recover. They cleaned up debris, hauled away the trash, and wiped down dust-covered surfaces across town. They did so to help the City get back on its feet and they provided an essential service to many residents and businesses across Lower Manhattan.
Unfortunately, during this time, they suffered exposure to deadly environmental toxins, including more than 2,500 contaminants in the air such as asbestos, silica, and fiberglass. This toxic air was not safe to breathe. However, the head of the EPA, as well as government officials said it was. Now, this exposure has caused chronic breathing and digestive conditions—including more than 70 different types of cancer, GERD, and COPD.
If you or your loved one has a serious medical condition (including cancer), your presence near Ground Zero after performing 9/11 cleanup work could be the cause. You could be eligible for compensation and a lifetime of FREE medical treatment and care through two separate federal programs. A 9/11 attorney at Hansen & Rosasco, LLP can meet with you to determine if you qualify.
How Hansen & Rosasco, LLP Can Help You With Your Claim
Having an attorney is not required to apply for the WTC Health Program or to file a claim for compensation with VCF. However, having an attorney on your side is crucial for ensuring the correct filing of your application or claim. We can also make sure that you receive your benefits or compensation as quickly as possible.
The law firm Hansen & Rosasco, LLP was founded by two of the leading 9/11 attorneys in the nation, Troy Rosasco and Daniel Hansen. Each of these attorneys has achieved Super Lawyer designation for multiple years for his representation of 9/11 first responders, workers, and residents who suffered from exposure to toxins in the terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan. Rosasco, Hansen, and the other attorneys on their team have extensive experience with coordinating the claims available to 9/11 cleanup workers, including WTC Health Program, VCF, Social Security Disability, and other benefits.
Some of our case results involving workers who suffered harm after participating in the 9/11 cleanup efforts include:
- $1.3 million for the family of a construction worker who died as a result of toxic exposure at Ground Zero.
- $1.1 million for an operating engineer who suffered sarcoma cancer that required radical resection of the sciatic nerve and hamstring muscle.
- $1.1 million for an ironworker and volunteer firefighter disabled by both thyroid cancer and prostate cancer.
- $1.1 million plus funeral expenses for the family of a dockbuilder who died of melanoma.
- $1.0 million VCF award for the family of a construction worker who died of WTC-related lung cancer.
Claimants who may qualify for relief under the VCF have little to lose by pursuing a claim. The VCF was fully funded in 2019, meaning a claim filed today will not reduce the amount of funding available to pay all claimants, in the past or in the future. The VCF allows for claimants to seek both economic damages, which refer to out-of-pocket expenses related to the illness or injury, as well as non-economic damages.
Non-economic damages are damages sought to compensate the claimant for impacts on his or her quality of life as a result of the toxic exposure involved in cleanup efforts. Examples of this type of damage include physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium (a damage claimed on behalf of the claimant’s spouse for loss of physical intimacy and companionship as a result of the 9/11-related physical harm), or loss of the enjoyment of life.
The Programs Available to Compensate Cleanup Workers
In early 2011, President Barack Obama signed the federal James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. This act carries the name of NYPD officer, James Zadroga, who died as the result of a respiratory condition that was caused by more than 450 hours of environmental exposure to the World Trade Center rubble following the attacks. The act essentially formed two different programs to benefit rescue, recovery, and cleanup workers and others who breathed in the cancer-causing dust.
These programs are as follows:
The World Trade Center Health Program
The World Trade Center Health Program provides a FREE lifetime of health care and health monitoring to responders who were directly affected by the terrorist attacks while working at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the site of the jet crash near Shanksville, Pennsylvania and individuals who lived, worked, or attended school in lower Manhattan and were there on September 11, 2001.
Among the groups of responders who are eligible to receive benefits from this program are cleanup workers who worked or volunteered onsite in rescue and recovery, debris cleanup, or related services at the following locations:
- Lower Manhattan, south of Canal Street from September 11, 2001, to September 14, 2001, for a minimum of four hours.
- The Staten Island Landfill, between September 11, 2001, to September 30, 2001, for a minimum of 24 hours.
- Certain barge loading piers, between September 11, 2001, to July 31, 2002, for a minimum of 80 hours.
In addition, any active or retired NYC police officer or member of the Port Authority Police or the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who participated in rescue, recovery, debris cleanup and related support services qualifies for the program if he or she:
- Worked at least four hours between September 11 to September 14, 2001, in Lower Manhattan, south of Canal Street, including the Staten Island Landfill, Ground Zero, or certain barge loading piers.
- Worked at least 24 hours between September 11 to September 14, 2001, in Lower Manhattan, south of Canal Street.
- Worked at least 80 hours between September 11, 2001, to July 31, 2002, in Lower Manhattan, south of Canal Street.
Vehicle maintenance workers who worked at least four hours in 9/11-related cleanup activities between September 11, 2001, and July 31, 2002, and suffered exposure to debris from Ground Zero while retrieving, driving, cleaning, repairing, and maintaining vehicles contaminated by airborne toxins can also qualify.
The program was reauthorized in 2015, and is open through 2090, to ensure that all affected individuals could access care—even if their illness did not occur until many years after the terrorist attacks.
Those who wish to apply for the program must provide supporting proof that shows:
- The type of work or activity you performed in the eligible areas and timeframe.
- The address or street name of the area in which you worked.
- The time during which you worked in one of the affected areas.
- How many hours per day that you worked in each location.
If an applicant has one of the certified conditions listed below, he or she qualifies for free lifetime treatment of that condition through the program, as well as any associated conditions. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) all administer the program.
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
The initial September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) ran from 2001-2004, providing compensation for anyone who suffered physical harm—or to the family members of anyone who lost their lives—during the terrorist attacks.
In 2010, the Zadroga Act reactivated this federal fund and made it available for another five years. In 2015, President Obama reauthorized the fund to make funds available to impacted individuals for another five years, with the program set to expire on December 18, 2020. In 2019, President Donald Trump reauthorized the program until 2090.
The program has full funding, so individuals and families do not need to worry about depleting the funds or taking funds from first responders. Anyone who suffered the effects of 9/11 can apply.
The reauthorization performed in 2015 made some changes to the program, including:
- Capping non-economic losses resulting from cancer to $250,000.
- Capping non-economic losses resulting from physical harm other than cancer to $90,000.
- Instructing the program’s Special Master to prioritize claims in which the claimant is suffering from one of the most physically debilitating conditions.
- Removing the $10,000 minimum placed on awards.
- Capping the annual gross income for recipients at $200,000 for each year of loss.
To register for the program, claimants must do the following:
- Create an online account. Pay close attention to your deadlines. If you received WTCHP certification before July 29, 2019, you must register your claim with VCF by July 29, 2021. If you do not have a WTCHP certified medical condition, or your condition was not certified until after that date, you can register your claim by July 29, 2021 or within two years from the date that the WTCHP certifies your condition as 9/11 related. The same deadlines apply if you wish to file a claim due to a loved one who died from a condition acquired after performing 9/11 cleanup operations. However, those who are filing as the result of a death must do so within two years after the death if it occurred after July 29, 2019. If the date of death is after July 29, 2019, the deceased’s family then has two years from the date of death to register a claim with the VCF. We can and will register your claim before your deadline.
- If you have an eligible condition, you need to get certification from the WTC Health Program before completing the filing of your claim with the VCF. It should be noted that, while using the same criteria, the WTC Health Program and the VCF are two different programs. Registering or getting a certification from the WTC Health Program does not automatically register you for VCF and is not a guarantee that you will qualify for compensation through VCF. Additionally, registering with VCF does not automatically result in a filed or approved claim. It is, instead, the way that you can reserve the right to file a claim in the future.
- While you must register with the VCF by a certain period of time—Registration is strictly within two years after certification by the WTC Health Program—the deadline for filing your claim is the same as everyone else’s: October 2090. You file your claim by submitting a completed claim form and required supporting documents. These documents include an authorization for the release of your medical records that allows VCF to access information from the WTC Health Program about your certified condition(s); a signature form that allows the VCF to get information from others in support of your claim, including employers, trade unions, or Worker’s Compensation—this signature form also states that you waive the right to file a lawsuit pertaining to your 9/11-related injuries; and proof of presence including documentation, including multiple affidavits and other evidence, that proves you were in an impacted area during or after the terrorist attacks.
Applicants often find it difficult to correctly obtain the necessary evidence to show that they have a qualifying illness, as well as Proof of Presence in the Exposure Zone. Tracking down eyewitnesses and getting the necessary proof, including the multiple affidavits, takes considerable amounts of skill and time. When struggling with a serious medical condition, your time is better spent on your health and treatment.
At Hansen & Rosasco, LLP, we handle everything for you from start to finish. All we do is help 9/11 accident victims and survivors. This enables us to efficiently and quickly work through gathering evidence and filing applications and ensures timely completion.
Illnesses That Qualify for Compensation
Many disorders qualify an individual for health care benefits from the WTC Health Program as well as the VCF. Those disorders include:
- Acute traumatic injuries such as burns, complex sprains, eye injuries, fractures, head trauma, or torn tendons.
- Airway and digestive disorders, known as aerodigestive disorders, which are a group of conditions that affect breathing or airways or the upper digestive tract. Conditions included in this category include asthma, chronic cough syndrome, chronic laryngitis, chronic nasopharyngitis, chronic respiratory disorder, chronic rhinosinusitis, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), interstitial lung disease, new-onset and WTC-exacerbated chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (RADS), sleep apnea that is medically related to another airway or digestive disorder, and upper airway hyperreactivity.
- Over 70 different types of cancers, including blood and lymphoid tissue (including myeloma, leukemia, or lymphoma), breast, digestive system including colon or rectal cancers, eye and orbit, ovary, head and neck, prostate, mesothelioma, rare cancers, the respiratory system including lung and bronchus, skin (melanoma, non-melanoma, and carcinoma in situ), soft tissue, thyroid, and urinary system including kidney and bladder.
- Mental health conditions including acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, dysthymic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorder (covered by the WTCHP but not the VCF for compensation).
- Musculoskeletal disorders caused by the repetitive strain of cleanup efforts. These disorders include carpal tunnel syndrome, low back pain, and other disorders.
The WTC Health Program provides medical coverage of certified conditions, as well as any other medical conditions that occur as the result of treatment provided for the certified condition or the progression of that condition, provided scientific literature supports the relationship between the two conditions.
Our 9/11 Lawyers Are Here to Help
If you performed cleanup activities in the days, weeks, and months after 9/11, you may qualify for a free lifetime of medical monitoring and treatment, as well as compensation for chronic illnesses or cancers. Let us help you understand your right to compensation and benefits due to your 9/11-related illness or injury. We help 9/11 victims, survivors, and families across the United States. For a free case review, contact Hansen & Rosasco, LLP online, or by calling (855) 353-4907.