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Rare Kidney Disease Proposed by 9/11 Responder for 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund 

September, 2022

On September 11, 2001, New York Police Department Detective Rich Volpe was shocked to be staring up at a 50-story pile of metal, concrete, and other debris. He wasn’t even sure if what he was looking at was real. Then he went to work, as did thousands of first responders from New York City and the surrounding area. 

Detective Volpe spent the next day or so at Ground Zero digging through the rubble before he went home to clean up. He was encased in dust and in fact needed a dustpan to clean the debris from his bathroom. 

Detective Volpe’s work at Ground Zero did not end after the first few days. He was given the macabre task of searching through the rubble at a Staten Island landfill, where he looked for human remains. He and dozens of NYPD officers worked on the pile of debris trucked from lower Manhattan to Staten Island for the next nine months. Incredibly, the debris pile stood as tall as the Statue of Liberty

Detective Volpe became sick nearly two years after the 9/11 attacks. Unlike many of his fellow first responders, he did not develop cancer or respiratory disease. The toxic dust exposure from Ground Zero attacked his kidneys instead.

In June of 2003, Detective Volpe’s doctors diagnosed him with a kidney disease called Immunoglobulin A Nephropathy (or IgA for short). Immediately upon his diagnosis, his doctors believed there was a causal link between his work at Ground Zero and his illness. How was this possible? IgA is a disease that attacks people in their 50s and 60s; Detective Volpe was only 33. 

Within one year, Detective Volpe lost 60% of the function in both kidneys. His illness forced him to retire from the NYPD after only 13 years on the job. In 2014, he had a life-saving kidney transplant. Coincidentally, two other officers he worked with on Staten Island developed the same disease and had kidney transplants—at the same time. 

Surely these kidney failures among 9/11 first responders could not be a coincidence. Kidney failure from IgA is a rare condition. Additionally, the need for a kidney transplant because of the damage caused by IgA is even rarer. About 60,000 people in the U.S. suffer from IgA.

Is Kidney Failure Recognized by the VCF or WTCHP?

Although Detective Volpe’s doctors were convinced his work caused him to suffer from IgA, the administrators of the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) and the World Trade Center Health Care Program (WTCHP) needed convincing. Currently, neither the WTCHP nor the VCF recognizes IgA as a disease presumptively caused by exposure to toxins that resulted from having worked at Ground Zero. This means Detective Volpe is ineligible to receive financial compensation for his illness. One of Detective Volpe’s doctors, however, hopes to correct that problem.

Dr. Mary Ann McLaughlin—from the Icahn School of Medicine in New York—studies kidney diseases caused by 9/11 toxin exposure. She asked Detective Volpe to join her study. Dr. McLaughlin will present her findings to the WTCHP and persuade the governing body that IgA is caused by having worked at Ground Zero.

What If IgA Is Added To The List of 9/11 Covered Conditions?

Detective Volpe and others may become eligible for financial compensation if the WTCHP adopts the study’s conclusions. If the WTCHP accepts IgA as a covered condition, then Detective Volpe can apply to the VCF. The VCF’s regulations only compensate 9/11 first responders and survivors if they can prove they were in the NYC Exposure Zone, and if the WTCHP determines the illness is causally linked to 9/11. 

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, Detective Volpe remains hopeful that the WTCHP will resume adding diseases to their list of covered conditions. The WTCHP has not announced a time frame as to when it will decide Detective Volpe’s case.

Contact the 9/11 Victim Compensation Lawyers with Pitta & Baione for More Information About the Eligibility Requirements for the VCF

About 20,000 first responders and survivors fell ill or died from exposure to toxic dust on 9/11. Tragically, there will be many more. If you or a loved one suffers from a 9/11-related illness, you could be eligible for financial compensation. The 9/11 victim compensation attorneys from Pitta & Baione dedicate their practice to helping people like you win the compensation they deserve. Call our firm at 844-596-1288, or use our online form to get the help you need.

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