Physical Presence Requirements of the 9/11 Benefits Programs: The World Trade Center Health Program and The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund

9/11 Toxic Dust PlumeAn NYPD police officer reaches into a debris covered squad car as dust rises from the collapsed World Trade Center.

When the World Trade Center was destroyed on 9/11/01, massive clouds of toxic dust spread throughout New York City, covering office buildings, parks, and residential communities with several inches of grey debris. We now know that this dust contained harmful chemicals and toxins that have since caused respiratory illnesses, lung diseases, and cancers. For this reason, physical presence within the contaminated area is a primary eligibility requirement of both the World Trade Center Health Program (“WTCHP”) and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (“VCF”). Using data from scientific studies that analyzed the prevalence of 9/11 toxic dust throughout New York City, the Federal Government established geographic boundaries, known as the “Exposure Zones” or “Exposure Areas.” Locations where 9/11-toxic dust was transported, sorted, or stored (such as the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island) are also considered to be part of the Exposure Zones.

The 9/11 Toxic Dust Exposure Zones

For eligibility purposes, applicants to the WTCHP and claimants with the VCF must have been physically present at a 9/11 crash site Ground Zero, The Pentagon, or Shanksville, PA or within the NYC Exposure Area. The exposure area differs for the WTCHP and the VCF. As you can see in the map below, the WTCHP differentiates between responders and survivors who have different eligibility criteria Responders must have been present below Canal Street while survivors must have been present below Houston Street or within the 1.5 mile radius into Brooklyn. In general, responders require a lower number of hours of exposure than survivors to be eligible for the WTCHP. and access to medical treatment Responders are entitled to an annual checkup and medical monitoring even if they have no 9/11-related conditions whereas survivors must have symptoms of at least one covered condition. Responders also have access to a broader range of treatment locations within the Metropolitan New York City Area. .

WTCHP Exposure Zone

The WTCHP employs a broader definition that encompasses the area of Manhattan south of Houston Street and any block in Brooklyn that is wholly or partially contained within a 1.5-mile radius of the former World Trade Center site.

VCF Exposure Zone

The VCF employs a smaller NYC Exposure Area defined as the area in Manhattan south of the line that runs along Canal Street from the Hudson River to the intersection of Canal Street and East Broadway, north on East Broadway to Clinton Street, and east on Clinton Street to the East River.

The Fresh Kills Landfill and Other Locations are Considered to be Within the Exposure Zones

Both the WTCHP and VCF may consider the eligibility of individuals who worked at Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, the New York City Chief Medical Examiner’s Office, or other areas related to, or along, routes of debris removal, such as barges used in the cleanup and garages where 9/11 dust covered vehicles were stored or cleaned.

Fresh Kills LandfillTemporary recovery facilities and damaged emergency vehicles at the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, NY in the months after 9/11.

For more information about eligibility requirements of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and the World Trade Center Health Program, contact Pitta & Baione LLP at 844-WTC-COMP or

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