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How Should You Choose a 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney?

Here at Turley, Hansen & Partners, it all starts with the first phone call. Watch the video above to get a sense of who our lawyers really are.  I spent over an hour on the phone this morning with a widow whose husband recently died of 9/11 related colon cancer. He was a volunteer fireman who traveled  from  five states  over on September 12, 2001 to help with rescue and recovery efforts at to Ground Zero. A real hero.

Our client was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at age 48, and he was only 52 at the time of his death. The aggressive chemotherapy he received to treat his cancer caused a host of other serious health problems which caused as much, if not more, pain and suffering as the cancer. He and his wife had been married almost 30 years when he died.

The widow had some basic questions about being appointed the “Personal Representative” so that she could receive the balance of her husband’s Group A award and file for a new death claim.  But as we talked I could tell she was still in tremendous pain from the loss of her soul mate.  I listened as she told me how hard it was for her to write out a “Victim Impact Statement” but that she wanted me to  read it so that I could understand their story.

After her husband’s diagnosis, it seemed like the world began crumbling around them (including losing their home).  Yet they still had each other to lean on until his death this spring. Now, with her children grown and married, she felt completely alone.  I wasn’t able to solve any of the heartbreaking problems she faces today, but I was able to listen when she needed it.

The widow’s Victim Compensation Fund claim is fairly straight forward from a legal perspective.  But our discussion this morning reminded me that I had another role as a 9/11  Victim Compensation lawyer. When I was admitted to the New York State Bar over 25 years ago, I took the oath as both an “Attorney and Counselor at Law”. Often times we attorneys only focus on our advocacy role and forget about our  role as a “Counselor at Law”. Today, I needed to remember that dual role when I spoke to my client’s widow.

So when you are trying to choose a 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund lawyer, remember to consider whether the “Attorney and Counselor at Law” will pick up the phone himself and listen first, then talk. You will be glad you did.

New 9/11 Zadroga Reauthorization Act WTC Compensation Fund Regulations Available from Turley Hansen

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The Justice Department today issued 47 pages of new regulations implementing the James Zadroga 9/11 Victim Compensation Reauthorization Act.

See the new Zadroga 9/11 Reauthorization Act regulations here.

We have already posted the important changes in the actual 9/11 WTC Zadroga Reauthorization Law in a previous post here. The new regulations are just as important. 

The new Zadroga regulations puts the “meat on the bones” of the new 9/11 Zadroga Reauthorization law and tell claimants and their lawyers how to file claims and what to expect in terms of financial awards in the future.

After a preliminary analysis, we believe the most important things claimants and their lawyers need to know about the new regulations are:

  • the Special Master shall identify claims that present the “most debilitating physical conditions” and prioritize payments to such claimants. This means that a claimant with terminal 9/11 related lung cancer should get priority placement for payment of compensation over a claimant with a surgically removed skin cancer that is presently considered cured. This is one of the most important changes for 9/11 victims who are seriously ill;
  • time limits for filing claims is extended from October 3, 2016 to December 18,2020;
  • the regulations clarify that the $250,000.00 cap for non-economic damages in cancer cases is for a single cancer. This means that if a claimant has more than one distinct 9/11 covered cancer, the award could pierce the $250,000.00 cap. For example, if a claimant is awarded $250,000.00 in non-economic damages for kidney cancer in 2016, and then develops unrelated 9/11 thyroid cancer in 2017, the claim can be “amended” for additional non-economic compensation;
  • the definition of a “spouse” in 9/11 related death claims has been expanded to include “same sex spouses” who were lawfully married to the victim under applicable state law;
  • economic loss shall include awards for out-of-pocket burial expenses on a case-by-case basis;
  • future awards for loss of earnings shall not include any amount for “future medical expenses” (presumably since most such expenses should be covered through the free care available from the World Trade Center Health Program – WTCHP);
  • determination of collateral offsets (amounts of compensation paid to a claimants from other different sources  that will reduce the final net payment to the claimant from the VCF) are further clarified;
  • the  VCF will implement the new statutory requirement of capping annual gross income at $200,000.00 for purposes of calculating future economic losses. This means that a claimant who previously made $250,000.00 annually prior to becoming disabled will now have his or her award based upon the $200,000.00 gross income cap, rather than their actual earnings;
  • the prior minimum award of $10,000.00 has been eliminated, meaning that even if a claimant has a covered 9/11 medical condition, they may receive zero dollars from the 9/11 WTC Victim Compensation Fund (VCF);

The new final 9/11 Victim Compensation Claim form is still not available, but a sample form should be posted shortly. We will bring this form to your attention on this website as soon as it becomes available. There are many more issues to be discussed about the new regulations and we will continue to bring you our analysis here.

There is a 30 day public comment period on this James Zadroga Act rule starting June 15, 2016. Click here if you wish to submit comments.

If you have any questions about the new Zadroga Act regulations or 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund claims, call us at 1-855-WTC-INFO to speak with one of our attorneys.

 

A Small Percentage of Future Group B 9/11 Victim Compensation Awards May Be Reduced

Turley Hansen  would like to share with you important new information from a recent meeting the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund had with law firms representing victims of 9/11 and its aftermath.

Specifically, a relatively small percentage of  9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Group B non-economic claim awards ( VCF claimants with loss determination awards dated after 12/17/15) could be reduced compared to the original Group A awards.

The Fund has advised 9/11 Cancer Victim Compensation law firms in writing as follows:

“Update on loss models and methodology: The reauthorization statute caps non-economic loss and includes a prioritization mandate. This means the non-economic awards will be lower for certain conditions than they were under Group A. 

We will not know how the new Reauthorization Act truly impacts Group B claims until the VCF starts issuing Group B decisions at the end of June (only a few weeks away) and we see new regulations being issued on June 15th. Stay tuned to this website and we will let you know what we find out.

Of course, Turley Hansen will fight to make sure their clients receive all the compensation they deserve from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, including appealing award determinations when appropriate.

We should also know more when the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund issues new regulations implementing the changes in the Zadroga Reauthorization Act in an “Interim Final Rule” on June 15, 2016. This new Rule is subject to a 30-day post-publication notice and comment period that will begin on June 15 and end on July 15, 2016, but the comment period should not itself hold up Group B determinations.

More New Info Coming June 15, 2016: the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund plans on posting a wealth of new and important information on the VCF.gov website on  June 15th, including new “FAQ’s” and a sample new claim form.  The new claim form includes helpful suggested changes from the law firms representing 9/11 victims. The actual, final online and hard copy claim forms should be released by the end of July.

***This effectively means that no new 9/11 VCF claims will  be able to be filed by VCF law firms until late July or early August at best.

Once new information becomes available next week, we will analyze and post the important take-aways here. Stay tuned.

 

9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Pays Families Over $1 Billion in Last 5 Years

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9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) Special Master Sheila Birnbaum issued a Special Report yesterday announcing that over $1 billion dollars has been paid claimants and families since the Fund re-opened in 2011. See her Special Report here.

Turley Hansen & Partners, LLP has obtained over $60 million dollars from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund for their clients over the last 5 years, and continues to file new claims with the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund for WTC first responders, volunteers, residents and workers below Canal Street who were in the “crash site area” between 9/11/01 and 5/30/02.  Many of the newest claims involve 9/11 related cancers.

Some of the key take-away’s from the the Special Master’s report include:

  • Group A Claims (claimants with loss determination award letters dated 12/17/15 or earlier) – as of May 22, the VCF has authorized payments on 8,717 claims.  Almost all Group A claim payments will be authorized in full by the end of June.
  • Group B Claims (claimants with loss determination awards dated after 12/17/15) – the VCF expects to begin issuing the first Group B loss determinations also at the end of June and expects that first payments will be authorized by mid-August. The VCF has made over 2,050 “Eligibility Decisions” since January of this year.
  • Filing New Claims – while the VCF updated new federal regulations and claim forms required by the Reauthorization of the Zadroga 9/11 Compensation Act passed last December, claimants have been unable to submit completed applications. During this period, Turley, Hansen & Partners has been preparing our clients’ claims for full submission once the VCF begins taking new applications. The VCF plans on releasing the new application forms by the last week in July. If all goes well, we should be able to start submitting applications with the new forms in August and September.
  • 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund website – on June 15, the VCF will post new information and FAQ’s on its website. The VCF will then post additional information in late July once the new application forms are released.

We will keep you posted on this blog with additional info you need to know. So far, this is all good news for victims of 9/11.  Please call us at 1-855-WTC-INFO (1-855-982-4636) to speak to an attorney if you have any questions.

 

Should 9/11 WTC Victims Take “Cash Advances” on Their Zadroga Victim Compensation Fund Claims?

Not if you read the New York Post article last week on the sad case of retired police officer Elmer Santiago who is being sued, along with his 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund lawyers, by RD Legal Funding Partners, LP for $500,000. Some are saying this 9/11 hero and victim is being victimized yet again. See the eye opening lawsuit papers here!

RD Legal Funding Partners, LP is run by Roni Dersovitz, a former lawyer and now hedge-fund manager. Apparently, Mr. Dersovitz found “greener” pastures in the money lending business.  The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about Mr. Dersovitz and  some questionable activities involving “investments”  in legal claims for United States victims and families against Iran from the deadly terror attacks in Beirut.  :

“According to marketing documents and people familiar with the firm, an arm of RD Legal buys those claims from victims at a steep discount, in many instances paying victims less than half what they would be entitled to if the judgment is paid. Such arrangements are common in the business of buying claims, though the discounts can vary widely.”

Court documents (see link above) in the Santiago 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund case show that RD Legal Funding Partners, LP “advanced” (another word for “loan” in my opinion) police officer Santiago $355,000 in a series of transactions beginning in August of 2014.  In return, RD Legal Funding demanded repayment of  $863,636.36 when police officer Santiago received his full Victim Compensation Award in February 2016 (only 18 months later).  

That’s over a half million dollar return on investment in just 18 months!!!  Almost comically, RD Legal Funding claims to “Provides The Best Offer To 9/11 First Responders Community On Zadroga Awards”!

Bottom Line: It is the responsibility of a 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund lawyer to advise his clients on the pros and cons of “cash advances”.  See New York City Bar Association Ethics Opinion here.

Trust me, there are many more “cons” as any lawyer with integrity will tell you. In the over 1000 9/11 victims our firm has represented thus far, less than 10 clients have needed to resort to “legal funding companies” as a method of paying bills while waiting for their 9/11 award. We actively discourage are clients from using such companies.

For those clients who have no choice but to seek a “cash advance” from these types of companies, the lawyer has a duty to make sure the client knows the full costs for every advance, and which funding companies are offering the best “terms”.

Turley, Hansen & Partners, LLP recently refused to sign a “Notice of Assignment” from RD Legal Funding Partners, LP on a case for one of our financially desperate clients because we thought our client could get a much better deal elsewhere.

Finally, it is puzzling why John Feal of the Fealgood Foundation actively and publicly  promoted RD Legal Funding Partners to his followers.

Here is Mr. Feal’s exact quote from the RD Legal Funding website:

Dear Friends, Supporters, and Those Affected by 9/11,

I would like to take a moment to introduce RD Legal Funding and their services. They have worked with the Fealgood Foundation over the past year, helping First Responders receive accelerated access to their settlement awards.

Thankfully, Zadroga bill payments are coming up. Unfortunately, some of us can’t wait an additional 5 years for our second payment. If you find yourself in this predicament, RD Legal Funding can help.

From dealing with RD Legal, I can say that they truly appreciate the sacrifice all of us have made and understand the urgency of giving us access to our award settlements. They have taken a potentially complicated situation and made the process of advancing settlement money straightforward and simple.

I can confidently recommend RD Legal to all First Responders that need immediate access to their settlement funds.

Sincerely,

John Feal
Founder & President
Fealgood Foundation

 

Note that RD Legal Funding has given well over ten thousand dollars to Mr. Feal’s Foundation in the past few years.  It appears Mr. Feal did not do his homework on RD Funding which has now led to 9/11 victims being victimized again.

For such a stalwart advocate of 9/11 heroes, it is hard to understand why Mr. Feal would so actively endorse an investment company like RD Legal Funding that is now suing police officer Santiago to repay out of his 9/11 settlement more than two and one half times the amount RD gave him only 18 months earlier.

What does Mr. Feal have to gain by telling his fellow heroes: “I can confidently recommend RD Legal to all First Responders”?  

In order to protect all other 9/11 heroes, John Feal should disavow on the Fealgood Foundation Facebook site his prior public support of RD Legal Funding Partners, LP.In addition, perhaps Mr. Feal can ask his friends at RD Legal Funding to withdraw this unfortunate lawsuit against a fellow 9/11 hero.  It’s the right thing to do.

 

Big Win for 9/11 Firefighter Widow Fighting for WTC Death Benefit Pension

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In a  strongly worded opinion slamming the New York City Fire Department Pension Board, New York Supreme Court Justice Richard Velasquez found that the  Pension Board acted in “bad faith” and will be “sanctioned” for denying death benefits to the widow of a hero 9/11 firefighter. The Court awarded the widow a WTC death benefit pension, back benefits from 2007, interest and attorney fees.  The widow was represented by Turley, Hansen partner Chet Lukaszewski , Esq., arguably the best disability pension lawyer in New York today.  The decision was  front page news on the cover of the New York Law Journal. Click here to see the 24 page decision that will hopefully result in the widow receiving all the 9/11 death pension benefits she deserves .

Jackie Kaht Fernandez has been fighting the New York Fire Department Pension Fund for 9/11 World Trade Center (WTC) death benefits for almost 10 years.  Her late husband, Lt. Cruz Fernandez, died suddenly on July 14, 2006 of a 9/11 related medical condition.  Lt. Fernandez was a “First Responder” who worked at Ground Zero from September 11, 2001 through the next 25 days, sometimes as often as 15 hours per day. Prior to his untimely death at age 52, Lt Fernandez had completed nine marathons.

The World Trade Center Law provides that “any condition or impairment of health … caused by a qualifying World Trade Center condition” as defined in the Retirement and Social Security Law “shall be presumptive evidence that it was incurred in the performance and discharge of duty and the natural and proximate result of an accident … unless the contrary be provided by competent evidence”.

Once an applicant establishes that the 9/11 hero worked the requisite number of hours at Ground Zero, the “World Trade Center Presumption” places the burden on the New York City Fire Department Pension Board to show that the applicant’s qualifying injury was not incurred in the line of duty. The significance of the presumption is that unlike ordinary Accidental Disability Retirement applicants, first responders need not submit any evidence – credible or otherwise – of causation to obtain the enhanced pension benefits.

If a determination is made, even post retirement, that the applicant is disabled by a
qualifying WTC condition, it will be presumed unless rebutted, that the disability was
sustained due to a work-related accident, thus entitling the applicant to WTC disability pension
benefits. The New York State legislature created the WTC presumption to benefit first responders because of the difficulty in establishing that non-trauma conditions could be traced to exposure to the toxins present at the WTC site in the aftermath of 9/11.

Lt. Fernandez was followed medically by the New York City Health Department, as were all responders to 9/11 in the early days following that event, to determine the effects of exposure to the toxicity of burning metal, debris from explosions, combustion products in the resulting plume, which were composed of construction materials, paint both leaded and unleaded, and partially burned jet fuel, plastic, cellulose and other materials. In addition, it was determined that First Responders had poor safety equipment including a lack of appropriate masks while breathing.

Ms. Fernandez’ attorney for over nine years, Chet Lukaszewski  submitted medical evidence showing that microscopic slides of Lt. Fernandez’ lungs indicated that the he had substantial anthracosis (an accumulation of smoke or coal dust in the lungs), and that although it had been several years since his retirement, and five years since the 9/11 event, the he still had considerable material in his lungs.  Lt. Fernandez’ doctors opined that “workers at the 9/11 site breathed highly toxic substances for a long time after the attack itself ~ toxic substances including dust, mercury, asbestos and PCBs.

The Court found that the Pension Board’s denial was irrational by stating that “anthracosis” is common finding in urban dwellers.  That’s news to me. According to the Pension Board, move out of NYC before its too late!

The Court found that the Medical Board provided no authority of any kind for there determination that
Lt. Fernandez did not die of a qualifying WTC illness, and provided no credible evidence to
support their findings.

Finally, Justice Richard Velasquez found the actions of  NYC Fire Department Pension Board ignored the orders of the Appellate Division, Second Department, and his Court, in that the key facts and evidence were once again ignored, and the determination to deny the widow’s application for WTC death benefits was once again arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, unlawful, biased and contrary to theprovisions of laws, ordinances, rules and regulations. This is not the first time Chet Lukaszewski has beat the Pension Board on this same claim.

Bottom Line – the New York Fire Department Pension Board was appropriately “taken to the woodshed”. Let it be a lesson to all New York Pension Board’s in the future treat 9/11 heroes fairly.

 

9/11 Law Firm Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik Client ID Theft by Temp Worker

Clients at 9/11 law firm victims of ID theft by temp worker

Unfortunately for a number of 9/11 victims and first responders, the New York Post has reported that clients of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund law firm Napoli Bern Ripka & Shkolnik have had their identity’s stolen by one of the firm’s temporary workers.

According to the NY Post:

“Rafal Bogun, 33, was a temp hired by Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik in February 2013 at the firm’s Empire State Building office, sources said. He used IDs to open credit cards, book hotels, and shop online, the Queens District Attorney’s Office charged.”

Essentially, 9/11 victims have been victimized again.

An estimated 17.6 million persons, or 7% of all U.S. residents age 16 or older, were victims of one or more incidents of identity theft in 2014. Among identity theft victims, existing bank (38%) or credit card (42%) accounts were the most common types of misused information.  Apparently, this crime involved the unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information to open a new accounts, such as a credit or debit card accounts. Most identity theft victims (92%) do not know anything about the identity of the offender. Thankfully, the Queens’ District Attorney found the perpetrator in this case and put a stop to the theft so that more 9/11 clients were not harmed.

Because of the sensitive information  law firms keep on their clients, many firms are now purchasing “Cyber Insurance” to protect their clients in case of identity theft. Our law firm purchased a separate Cyber Insurance policy two years ago when we recognized the greater need to use the internet to conduct business. A large part of all the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund claims work is conducted through a secure portal with the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

ID theft frequently involves the following information, much of which is stored on 9/11 law firm or federal government computers:

  • Person’s name
  • Email Address
  • Home Address
  • Social Security Number
  • Health Information
  • Date of Birth

Cyber Insurance frequently pays for quick notification to clients of the loss of their “personal identifiable information” and offers of free credit monitoring for client’s for one year or more.

In this day and age, it is important to choose your 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund law firm wisely and make sure that they have protections in place to protect you from identity theft.

 

Troy Rosasco and Daniel Hansen Talk Zadroga Act with Nassau Bar Journal and Suffolk Bar Journal

Turley Hansen & Partners is proud of the work our attorneys do to support and aid our 9/11 clients. Most recently, Troy Rosasco – one of the leading workers compensation and disability attorneys in the New York metropolitan area – has published articles in both the Nassau Bar Journal and Suffolk Bar Journal, educating other lawyers on the Reauthorization of the Zadroga Act. The Zadroga Act is named after 9/11 first responder and NYC Police Officer James Zadroga,  who passed away at the age of 34 from a respiratory illness contracted during his nearly 500 hours spent searching the rubble of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks. The act was originally signed into law by President Obama in early 2011, and established the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, ensuring that those affected by 9/11 receive monitoring and treatment for 9/11-related health problems through 2015.

Troy Rosasco’s article from the Nassau Bar Journal, titled Helping Our Heroes: The Reauthorization of the Zadroga Act, lays out just what the reauthorization of this bill means for the first responders and others who were residents of the “exposure area” (generally referring to the area of lower Manhattan south of Canal Street) after 9/11. As Rosasco points out, although this bill is often thought of as being a New York-focused bill, now nearly 15 years after 9/11, there are sick 9/11 responders or volunteers living in all 50 states, making this a nationwide issue. President Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act as a part of Congress’ year-end Omnibus spending bill on December 18th, 2015. Finally, a long and difficult struggle in Congress was ended. The Reauthorization Act extends the program for 75 years, with the official end date being on October 1, 2090, thus covering first responders and residents of the “exposure area” for the rest of their lives. Rosasco’s full article for the Nassau Bar Journal can be found here.

For the Suffolk Bar Journal, Troy Rosasco and Daniel Hansen teamed up on an article titled James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act of 2010. In this piece, the two lawyers go more in depth about exactly what programs are funded under the Zadroga Act, as well as the eligibility criteria clients have to meet in order to be accepted to the program. Overall, the new law establishes a medical monitoring and treatment program for WTC responders, including those who performed rescue, recover, demolition, debris clean-up, and related services. To receive treatment under this program, the condition of the patient must be among the identified WTC-related listed conditions, and the condition must be determined by a physical at a Clinical Center of Excellence to have been caused or contributed to by exposure to adverse conditions resulting from the 9/11 attacks. Additionally, the Zadroga Act establishes a “survivor program” for non-responders who lived, worked, or went to school in the defined areas of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn for a period of time after the 9/11 attacks, provided that they also meet the established eligibility requirements of the program. This period of “immediate aftermath” that was first defined as being a period of 12 hours after the attacks – or 96 hours for rescue workers – was extended in the Zadroga Act to be any period of time from the crashes on September 11, 2001, through to May 30, 2002.  To read the full article, click here.

Turley Hansen & Partners’ combination of one of New York’s top trial attorneys, Daniel J. Hansen, with the 9/11 experience of New York’s premier workers compensation/Social Security disability law firm, Turley Redmond Rosasco & Rosasco, LLP, encompasses a powerful set of legal skills that greatly benefits their 9/11 clients. The firm assists with all legal needs of the 9/11 community, from workers compensation to Social Security Disability, successfully providing their clients with the legal basis for large awards from the Victim Compensation Fund. The firm now represents nearly 1,000 9/11 first responders and lower Manhattan residents in their Victim Compensation Fund claims.

9/11 Responders and Residents Exposed to WTC Dust 15 Times More Likely to Develop Neuropathy

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Peripheral Neuropathy Affecting 9/11 Survivors

A new study published in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine concludes the exposure to World Trade Center (WTC) dust after 9/11 is associated with “neuropathic symptoms”.  The new  research, conducted by Marc Wilkenfeld, MD and associates from Winthrop University Hospital in Long Island, New York, substantiates the growing number of physical symptoms of 9/11 responders and lower Manhattan residents who are complaining of sensations of “burning, pain, numbness and tingling” in their hands and feet. 

Turley Hansen has been representing clients with peripheral neuropathy for over 25 years, usually as it relates to Type 2 diabetes. No matter the cause. this is often a terribly painful and disabling condition which leads many to apply for Social Security disability benefits.   Medications such as gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica) sometimes relieve nerve pain.  However, there is no cure once the nerves are damaged, which makes 9/11 related neuropathy as serious as many other 9/11 covered conditions under the Zadroga Act and the Victim Compensation Fund. 

If you have been diagnosed with “neuropathy” that you think is the result of exposure to 9/11 dust and toxins, call our office today for a Free Case Review at 1-855-WTC-INFO.

Newsday Article on Neuropathy on those Exposed to 9/11 WTC Dust

New York Newsday recently published an excellent article on the impact of neuropathy on 9/11 responders and residents of lower Manhattan. Based upon the new study published by Dr. Wilkenfeld at Winthrop University Hospital, a petition has been submitted to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to include neuropathy as a “covered ” 9/11 Zadroga Act condition.

The Story of Retired NYPD Officer John Coughlin and his 9/11 Neuropathy 

Now it appears the dust cloud caused even more problems than previously thought. Retired police officer John Coughlin, who worked in recovery after the attacks, has endured heart disease, sinusitis, stomach problems, PTSD, diminished lung capacity and chronic acid reflux following 9/11.

Coughlin then began having numbness and tingling in his feet, then in his fingers. With little feeling in his feet, Coughlin had to be very careful when walking lest he step on something sharp without realizing it. Since the nerves in his feet were damaged, any wound he received would be extremely slow to heal.

The latest Winthrop study has placed symptoms of neuropathy even higher than among the population of Type 1 diabetics. It is unknown whether the nerve damage was a result of breathing in the toxic dust or exposed skin.

What is Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a result of damage to your peripheral nerves and often causes weakness, numbness and pain in your hands and feet. Peripheral neuropathy can result from traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, diabetes, inherited causes and exposure to toxins. It is this “exposure to toxins” from 9/11 WTC dust which has caused so much neuropathy in 9/11 responders and lower Manhattan residents. 

Those Exposed to 9/11 Dust “15 Times More Likely” to Develop Neuropathy

Dr. Wilkenfeld, a physician who has treated hundreds of World Trade Center patients, became alarmed when he began hearing the same list of symptoms from one patient after another. In an interview, Dr. Wilkenfeld noted that more than one patient had their hand go so numb so quickly, they dropped a cup of coffee or something else they were holding. Dr. Wilkenfield joined forces with Mark Stecker, MD who has done prior studies which tested how the nerves of rats react to various substances.

After obtaining some of the toxic dust from the World Trade Center, Stecker and Wilkenfeld ran tests on rats, using the dust. Clearly, the dust damaged the nerves of the rats. Stecker and Wilkenfield then surveyed 255 people, half of whom had been exposed to the toxic dust cloud of the World Trade Center. The exposed patients were a staggering 15 times more likely to exhibit severe neuropathy symptoms than those who had not been exposed to the dust.

What’s in the Toxic Dust from 9/11 that causes Neuropathy?

When the South, then the North Towers came down, vast clouds of dust swirled, blocking the sunlight and putting those below in a near-black environment. When the dust clouds settled, virtually every surface was covered with a fine, penetrating dust, which permeated buildings below, contaminating air conditioning systems and requiring extensive decontamination measures. The dust was thicker downwind of the complex, settling in depths as much as three inches a full six blocks from the World Trade Center.

This toxic dust cloud was comprised of pulverized glass and cement, asbestos, benzene, sulfur, radionuclides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, brominated diphenyl ethers, phthalate esters, poly-chlorinated biphenyls, dibenzodioxins and dibenzofurans.

Philip Landrigan, chairman of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a major 9/11 health researcher called the dust “nasty stuff.”  Landrigan stated that two-thirds of the mass was pulverized concrete, which is very caustic, with a pH as high as 11. Those high alkaline pH levels are believed to be what burned the eyes, noses, respiratory tracts and esophagus’ of 9/11 survivors.

Will Neuropathy Become a Covered 9/11 Disease under the Zadroga Act?

Unfortunately, neuropathy is not among the diseases covered under the new Zadroga Reauthorization Act currently. The disease is being considered for 9/11 Zadroga Act coverage, however a formal medical peer review is necessary before adding a new illness. Neuropathy has no cure, and, in most cases, progresses over time, making it an extremely painful and disabling disease. Hopefully, it will be added within the next year as a 9/11 covered illness.

Just like Turley Hansen did with our successful fight for inclusion of cancer under the Zadroga Act, we will do the same for neuropathy.

9/11 WTC Cancers Still on the Rise

Various 9/11 cancers, such as leukemia, myelomakidney and lung cancer, melanoma, prostate and bladder cancers and mesothelioma are being seen more and more often among those who survived 9/11 WTC dust cloud, even though cancer was just added in 2012 as a covered disease under the Zadroga Act.

A relatively new set of symptoms which includes what many call a “terrible numbness” in their hands and feet, is the most recent complaint observed by doctors who examine survivors of 9/11. The issue is known as neuropathy, and causes tingling and pain in the nerve endings of the extremities.

Extended Medical Coverage to 2090 through World Trade Center Health Program

In late 2015, Congress passed an updated version of the Zadroga Act which extended medical coverage for survivors and first responders of 9/11 through 2090. Now neuropathy must be added to the list of covered diseases. If you or a loved one has suffered neuropathy or any other disease related to your exposure to the toxic dust of 9/11, it can be extremely beneficial to speak to an experienced attorney about your symptoms.

Doctors who examine 9/11 survivors typically ask a specific set of questions in order to determine whether the patient’s afflictions were the result of the toxic dust cloud that settled over the World Trade Center following the bombings.

Support Adding Neuropathy as a Covered Illness in the 9/11 Zadroga Act

We  encourage all first responders and their families to join us in supporting the addition of neuropathy to the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

Should you have any questions about the Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act or World Trade Center Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, please call us for a Free Case Review at 1-855-WTC-INFO, click the chat button or contact us at the top of this page.

We will continue to keep you updated on the status of adding neuropathy as a covered 9/11 illness under the Zadroga Act. 

September 11th Victim Compensation Fund – New Message from Special Master Sheila Birnbaum

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The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) Special Master, Sheila Birnbaum, issued a new statement today regarding the Reauthorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.   Click link here to read her entire messageSeptember 11th Victim Compensation Fund_Sheila Birnbaum Message_12_30_2015_2.

Special Master Birnbaum’s statement is intended to inform claimants of the procedures she plans on implementing to carry out the directives in the new Zadroga Re-authorization Act.

Specifically, she stated that the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund will:

  • Move additional staff to support payment of “Group A Claims” (written loss determinations issued on or before 12/17/2015) “expeditiously”;
  • Expects it will take 3-6 months to complete “Group A” payments;
  • Develop new policies and procedures, including re-evaluating claim forms, for “Group B Claims” to increase efficiency;
  • Pay all “Group A Claims” fully before paying any compensation on “Group B Claims”;
  • Continue to process and render decisions on “eligibility” claims submitted before 12/18/2015;
  • Continue to review “compensation” claims submitted before 12/18/2015. However, the VCF estimates that  no new award determinations will be made until the summer of 2016 and no actual payments will be made until the fall of 2016;
  • Post updates and changes on the Victim Compensation Fund website, www.VCF.gov . (Also, see this website for analysis and advice on the updates and changes);
  • Commits to transparency and fairness in the award determination process;
  • Welcomes comments and input to implement the changes required by the new law;

Bottom Line – the Special Master and her staff at the Justice Department have a huge amount of work in the next 180 days to plan and implement new procedures for the very welcome Zadroga Reauthorization Act.

Turley Hansen and Partners wish the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund good luck in implementing the new Zadroga Reauthorization Act and stand ready to assist in their efforts to issue much needed compensation to 9/11 heroes as soon as possible.

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