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Changes to Victims Compensation Fund Will Provide Additional Coverage for 9/11 Responders

Written by Christopher M. Placitella, Esquire and James P. Goslee, Esquire

On September 11, 2001, a group of al-Qaida operatives carried out the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the United States. Using hijacked commercial airlines as weapons, these operatives brought down New York City’s World Trade Center, significantly damaged the Pentagon and caused the deaths of innocent passengers on Flight 93. Over 3,000 people died as a result these coordinated attacks, including hundreds of firefighters and other emergency responders.

To address the illness and injuries suffered by Ground Zero responders, President Obama signed the James Zadroga Act into law in early 2011. The Zadroga Act reactivated the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund (“VCF”) that was in place between 2001 and 2004 and created a $4.3 billion fund to provide health monitoring, medical treatment and financial compensation for individuals who were injured as a result of the September 11th attacks. However, the reactivated VCF only provided medical benefits and compensation for respiratory illness, mental health disorders, and physical injuries. It did not cover cancer because there was insufficient evidence establishing a link between the disease and Ground Zero dust and debris.

Recent medical studies of 9/11 responders has caused the government to reverse its position on the link between exposure to Ground Zero toxins and cancer. These studies have shown that emergency responders exposed to Ground Zero toxins suffer higher instances of certain cancers. As a result of this research, in July the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (“NIOSH”) made nearly 50 types of cancer eligible for coverage under the Act. These cancers include, among others, cancers of the lungs, trachea, esophagus, stomach, colon, breast, thyroid, blood and kidney.

Firefighters and other emergency responders who worked at Ground Zero need to be aware of the inclusion of these cancers under the VCF. By adopting these changes, NIOSH has not only recognized the link between dust and debris at Ground Zero and various forms cancer, but provided a means of compensation for emergency responders who have or may suffer from these diseases. Individuals who wish to learn more about VCF can find information at the following website: https://www.vcf.gov/index.html

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