In order to be eligible for New York workers’ compensation, disability, and accidental death benefits for 9/11-related illnesses, claimants must file a “WTC-12” form with the Workers Compensation system and/or “Notice of Participation” form with the applicable retirement system. The deadline to file either of these forms was originally September 11, 2010, and later extended to September 11, 2015. However, as it may take several years for some 9/11-related illnesses to develop, many workers and volunteers missed both deadlines. In recognition of the ongoing battle of 9/11 responders to obtain health and compensation benefits for their illnesses, Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill extending the deadline to September 11, 2018.
In announcing the 9/11 disability extension, Governor Cuomo commented “Though September 11th may feel like an eternity ago, we still feel the pain and the loss like it was yesterday, and the thousands of brave men and women who stepped up in our darkest hour are still grappling with the aftereffects. We vow to do whatever we have to do to provide these brave men and women and their families the benefits they deserve. As New Yorkers, when we are knocked down, we get up twice as strong because we have our fellow New Yorkers to raise us up. The volunteers and workers raised us up in our time of need, and we will ensure they get the resources and support they need.” Governor Cuomo described the situation for volunteers and workers who missed the deadline as “The worst of all worlds. You’re sick because of 9/11…and the government isn’t there to help you.”
Eligible claimants for 9/11 disability and workers’ compensation and benefits include volunteers and workers who participated in rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations during the first 48 hours after the first airplane crash or a total of 40 hours between September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2002, at the following locations:
- The World Trade Center site (defined as the area below a line starting from the Hudson River and Canal Street bearing east on Canal Street to Pike Street, continuing south on Pike Street to the East River; and extending to the lower tip of Manhattan);
- The New York City (NYC) morgue or any temporary morgue;
- The Fresh Kills Landfill; and
- On the barges that ran between Manhattan and the Fresh Kills Landfill
Eligible applicants for 9/11 disability and workers’ compensation benefits also include those who:
- Participated in the rescue, recovery or clean up operations at specific NYC police department, fire department or emergency medical services sites during the first 24 hours.
- Repaired, cleaned or rehabilitated vehicles or equipment, owned by the City of New York, contaminated by debris, regardless of whether the work was done at one of the above locations.
Eligible claimants suffering from a qualifying condition are afforded the benefit of a presumption that their illness is related to 9/11. This means that the illness is presumed to be a result of work related to 9/11 rescue, recovery, and clean-up operations unless the contrary is proven by competent evidence (such as medical records) showing evidence of the condition prior t0 9/11.
Qualifying conditions for 9/11 disability and workers’ compensation benefits include:
- Upper respiratory tract (rhinitis, sinusitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, vocal chord disease, upper airway hyper-reactivity and tracheo-bronchitis, or a combination of such conditions);
- Lower respiratory tract (bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, reactive airway dysfunction syndrome and various forms of pneumonitis — hypersensitivity, granulomatous, or eosinophilic);
- Gastroesophageal tract (esophagitis and reflux disease);
- Psychological (post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, or any combination of these conditions);
- Skin (conjunctivitis, contact dermatitis or burns, infectious, irritant, allergic, idiopathic or non-specific in nature, caused by exposure or aggravated by exposure); and
- New onset diseases (resulting from exposure as such diseases may occur in the future including cancer, asbestos-related diseases, heavy metal poisoning, musculoskeletal disease and chronic psychological diseases).
Claimants who qualify for 9/11 workers’ compensation and disability benefits may also be eligible for federal benefits under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The Zadroga Act created the World Trade Center Health Program, and reopened the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). The World Trade Center Health Program provides free medical monitoring, treatment, and medication for eligible conditions similar to those qualified for 9/11 workers’ compensation and disability benefits (a list of which can be found here). The VCF provides compensation in the form of a one-time, lump sum payment, which includes pain and suffering, lost earnings, replacement services, and out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Volunteers and workers who participated in the 9/11 rescue, recovery, and clean-up operations may file their WTC-12 and Notice of Participation forms to preserve their claim for 9/11 disability and workers’ compensation benefits. There is no deadline to apply to the World Trade Center Health Program, which has been fully funded through 2090, but there are critical filing deadlines for 9/11 victim compensation.
For more information, contact Pitta & Baione LLP at 844-WTC-COMP or firstname.lastname@example.org.