9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Announces Program Statistics: Progress Continues, But What May Be Holding Up Your Claim?

 

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Last week, Special Master Sheila Birnbaum of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund released the program’s claim statistics. As of June 30th, 15,600 eligibility claims have been submitted. Eligibility is the first step of the claim process in which the VCF determines if an individual meets all the qualifications required to be approved to apply to the fund. Once eligibility is determined by the VCF and all of the necessary documentation and paperwork is submitted to support any monetary loss as well as the pain and suffering from certified 9/11 related illnesses, then the VCF can move forward to make a decision on how much a Claimant will be awarded.

Although much progress has been made in the speed of claims handling, the report clearly outlines some of the issues the VCF has been coming up against in preventing them from making just an eligibility decision. Out of the 15,600 claims that have been submitted only about ½ of those claims have the proper documentation. 

In order to be compensated for 9/11 related illnesses or injuries, an individual will need to be determined “eligible” by the VCF by meeting certain criteria. There are 6,901 eligibility Claims that are on hold right now due to missing paperwork and information. The VCF will send correspondence to your law firm to alert them should these items be missing.

Below is a quick outline of what common issues may be holding up a claim and how to remedy these particular situations in order to get eligibility approval.

Missing signed Exhibit A – This is the authorization for release of medical records form. This form allows the VCF to obtain information about a Claimant’s eligible conditions. This is easily rectified by simply printing out the form, signing and initialing where appropriate and sending to the VCF.

Claims missing proper proof documentation – The VCF requires Claimants to provide proof of presence at the disaster site. The preferred form of proof that the VCF likes to see is witness affidavits. The VCF requires only 2 people that can attest to your presence in the disaster zone. Click here for a complete list of proof documentation accepted by the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

Claim missing information in regards to prior 9/11 Lawsuit – If you were part of a prior 9/11 related lawsuit, the VCF requires that all Claimants provide documentation showing that the case was settled before January 2, 2012 and the award amount. The VCF does offset this amount when making an award decision on your claim.

Claim missing NIOSH certification of illnesses - The VCF will only deem a Claimant eligible if thier illnesses have been certified by NIOSH (National Institute for Safety and Health). The fastest and easiest way to have your illnesses certified by NIOSH is by attending the World Trade Center Health Program. At the WTCHP, you will recieve free care and the doctors specialize in 9/11 related illnesses. There is the alternative to get certification through private physician forms, however this process may take longer.

For the full VCF program statistics report, click here.

If you would like to know more about the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and if you are eligible to apply, please feel free to call, click the chat button or request to be contacted at the top of this page.

Angela Luongo, a Paralegal with Turley, Hansen & Partners contributed to the writing of this post.

Advocates Seek Workers' Compensation Benefits for 9/11 Volunteers

 

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Advocates for 9/11 Volunteers are diligently working to reach as many volunteers as possible to make them aware that they may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under New York State Law. Typically volunteer workers in any capacity are not eligible for workers’ compensation. However, in 2002, the 9/11 Volunteer Fund was set up by the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board to provide benefits those Ground Zero volunteers who were injured or became ill from the toxins in the air during their volunteer efforts.

Since 2002, the 9/11 Volunteer Fund was only compensating those who were volunteering under agencies such as FEMA or the Red Cross. Advocates argue that this was unfair to those who had selflessly gone down Ground Zero on their own volition and strongly feel that these benefits were improperly denied. Just recently it was announced that the Workers’ Compensation Board will reconsider and offer workers’ compensation benefits to those who did not volunteer under an agency. According to a recent Newsday article, the appellate division will review “any re-opening/re-consideration requests for Claimants who have received decisions which were decided upon the volunteer affiliation basis.”

In the Newsday article, Troy Rosasco says, “I see this decision as having a wide-ranging impact on a number of workers’ compensation issues in the future.”  The 9/11 Volunteer Fund is federally funded and originally had $50 million allotted to compensate sick and injured 9/11 volunteer workers. There is still $15 million left to be distributed to those who are entitled. This is in addition to compensation for illnesses and injuries through the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

If you or someone you know was an unaffiliated 9/11 volunteer and would like more information about compensation through the 9/11 Volunteer Fund, you can call, click the chat button or contact us at the top of this page. 

 

Angela Luongo, a Paralegal with Turley, Hansen & Partners contributed to the writing of this post.

Unfortunate Controversy Surrounds 9/11 Memorial Museum Store

 

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The 9/11 Memorial gift shop opened this week to relatives of those who perished on that day and to rescue and recovery workers who worked tirelessly. Unfortunately, according to the New York Post, the reaction from many in the 9/11 community was not one of pride and remembrance, but of appall and disgust and politicians have labeled it as "crass." 13 years later and it is still an open wound for many affected by this tragedy. 

Gift shops are a staple in virtually every museum nationwide. Visitors usually enjoy browsing to find the perfect souvenir; a keepsake to remind them of a place they have been and to spark a thought of remembrance when they look at that souvenir. However, many in the 9/11 community feel that attaching a gift shop to this tragic event was distasteful considering that the Memorial also contains the remains of many unidentified victims. 

There are many questions surrounding this controversy, but one can understand why it could be upsetting to those directly affected. Is it because the events of 9/11 are still so fresh in our minds and the wound is still open? The Pearl Harbor Museum and the Holocaust Museum both have gift shops, but is there no controversy because it happened long ago? 

Some may come to the conclusion that it may be disconcerting to some because people are still suffering mentally and physically. People are still dying from this tragedy. Many first responders, area workers and residents are sick with illnesses that are known to have been attributed to the toxic air that they were exposed to. Cancer and severe breathing issues are just some of the diseases that continue to plague the 9/11 community still to this day and it is expected for years to come. 

Since the tragedy of 9/11, we have all vowed to "never forget." Maybe some will see the 9/11 Memorial gift shop as a place to educate their children and grandchildren and to remind them of those vows and to teach. To some it will serve as a reminder of their experience and pain of those lost loved ones that they can never get back. The new 9/11 Memorial is moving in different ways for different people. 

 

 

 

4 More Cancers Officially Covered Under Zadroga Act

 

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Four more cancers are now covered for treatment under the Zadroga Act effective immediately. The cancers now included are brain cancer, cervical cancer, pancreatic cancer and testicular cancer. The official announcement was made on April 21st after a proposed rule was issued on February 18th by the administrator of the World Trade Center Health Program and Dr. John Howard, Director of NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).

If you were a first responder, survivor, area worker or resident who was diagnosed with any of the newly listed cancers, you may be entitled to free care and treatment through the World Trade Center Health Program. In addition, you may also be eligible for monetary compensation under the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).

If you have been diagnosed with any 9/11 related cancer or illness, it is important to register with the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund as soon as possible to reserve your right to file a future claim. Specific registration deadline dates apply for different circumstances. For more information about registration deadline dates and which ones apply to you, click here. 

It is also important to make sure that if you plan on applying to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, that your illnesses have been certified by the World Trade Center Health Program. Certification is an eligibility requirement of the VCF.

Although Special Master Sheila Birnbaum of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund has not officially made an announcement to add the new cancers to the list of eligible conditions, it is expected that she will move forward and include them for compensation as she most recently has with prostate cancer.

There are now over 65 different types of cancers that are recognized as 9/11 related. Last week, Newsday reported on the subject and wrote,  "a study of 55,778 responders and residents published in the Journal of the Amercian Medical Association in December 2012 found an increased risk of cancer just among the responders and only for prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, and myeloma compared with the general population." They also noted that researchers recommend that the study should be viewed as short-term because cancers can take decades to develop after expsosure to toxins. For example, according to the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund latency guideline, mesothelioma can take up to 11 years after toxic exposure to surface.

Should you have any questions about 9/11 cancers or need help filing your VCF claim, please feel free to call, click the chat button or contact us at the top of this page. 

Angela Luongo, a Paralegal with Turely, Hansen & Partners contributed to the writing of this post. 

 

New Study Links Heart Disease Risk to 9/11 Toxin Exposure

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Obstructive sleep apnea and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are unfortunately common illnesses among many first responders that were exposed to high levels of toxic debris and dust particles from Ground Zero. Two separate studies were recently conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai linking both obstructive sleep apnea and PTSD to heart disease risk in 9/11 first responders.

The studies were presented by Cardiologist Mary Ann McLaughlin, MD, MPH of Mount Sinai at the American Heart Association’s EPI/NPAM Scientific Sessions in San Francisco on March 20th. Dr. McLaughlin explained that high exposure to the toxic air particles at Ground Zero puts 9/11 first Responders at risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea and PTSD, in which both may be a precursor for developing heart disease. 9/11 health research studies are done through the WTC-CHEST program, a sub-division of the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) Clinical Center for Excellence, Mount Sinai.

The research was funded by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and the CDC (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention).  The study of 800 participants was conducted from January 2011 through September 2013. The dynamics of the study included how long each participant was exposed to 9/11 particulate matter and how close in proximity they were to Ground Zero. The study also showed evidence that inhaling these toxic particles also increased risk of PTSD. Those responders in the study who had PTSD also had biological characteristics that point to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It was found that those WTC responders with PTSD had substantially higher levels of hsCRP (high sensitivity C-reactive protein), a key indicator of increased cardiovascular disease risk.

Some of the particles that were inhaled included cement dust, smoke, glass fibers and heavy metals. Previous 9/11 health studies conducted has also linked toxic particle exposure to kidney disease among many other serious illnesses such as a multitude of different types of 9/11 related cancers. Although obstructive sleep apnea and *PTSD is included for treatment by the WTCHP, there has been no official rule or announcement by the WTCHP to include heart disease as a covered condition.  Dr. McLaughlin states, “As a result of our new study findings, we plan to further closely monitor our WTC first responders for heart disease warning signs.”  

Should you need more information about the World Trade Center Health Program or need assistance with your 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund claim, please feel free to call, click the chat button or contact us at the top of this page.

*For those who are applying to the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund under the Zadroga Act, PTSD is not included as a covered condition for compensation.

Angela Luongo, a Paralegal with Turley, Hansen and Partners contributed to the writing of this post.

Four Additional Cancers To Be Added Under The 9/11 Zadroga Bill

 

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Last week the World Trade Center Health Program announced that four different cancers will be added to the list of conditions covered under the 9/11 James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act.  The cancers to be added are; Pancreas, Cervix Uteri, Testicular and Brain.  These conditions are expected to take effect for coverage by end of April, 2014. 

The decision to amend the list of cancers under the World Trade Center Health Program makes it evident that there is a clear link from 9/11 toxin and debris exposure to over 60 types of cancer. With the addition of these four cancers, many first responders, volunteers and survivors will be able to get the free cancer care they deserve under the World Trade Center Health Program. It is expected that Special Master Sheila Birnbaum of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund will follow suit to allow these cancers to be covered for monetary compensation as she has done previously with all other cancers deemed 9/11 related by the World Trade Center Health Program and NIOSH.

 

Learn more about enrolling in the World Trade Center Health Program.


The proposed ruling also clarifies the definition of “childhood cancer” and “rare cancers” as covered conditions. Childhood cancer refers to cancers that are dignosed in a person that is under 20 years of age. Rare cancer will be defined as “ any cancer that has an incidence rate of less than 15 cases per 100,000 persons per year.”

If you were a responder, volunteer or survivor of the 9/11 attacks and have been diagnosed with any of the cancers that have now been added, it is extremely important that you register immediately with the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and enroll in the World Trade Center Health Program to have your condtions certified as 9/11 related.

If you would like to make a comment in support of the ruling, you can mail to: NIOSH Docket Office, Robert A. Taft Laboratories, MS-C34, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinatti, OH 45226 or submit your comment online. Should you have any questions about 9/11 cancers or need help filing your VCF claim, please feel free to call, click the chat button or contact us at the top of this page.

Angela Luongo, a Paralegal with Turley, Hansen and Partners contributed to the writing of this post.

 

World Trade Center Health Program Issues Medical Care Cards For Certified Cancer Patients


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Recently the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) began issuing membership cards to those enrolled in the program. In addition, patients that have received certification for cancer conditions will also be issued a medical care card. The WTCHP works diligently to ensure that patients are getting the best care and treatment for cancer conditions as well as any other 9/11 related illnesses.

Many emergency responders, recovery and cleanup workers, as well as volunteers have  become ill with cancer and other diseases since the September 11th attacks. Enrollment continues to grow each day and over 65,000 members are getting the free health care and treatment that they deserve.

The WTCHP medical care card simplifies the process of getting treatment for your 9/11 related cancer. With prior authorization from the World Trade Center Health Program, all you need to do is present your card to the authorized treating doctor.

The following are some of the benefits offered by the WTCHP for patients with cancer and other 9/11 related illnesses:

Free Health Care:  If you are suffering from a 9/11 related cancer or other covered condition, you are entitled to receive free health care under the WTCHP. For a full list of 9/11 related illnesses covered under the program click here.

Yearly Medical Monitoring: The WTCHP provides health evaluations and treatment for enrolled members. Whether or not you have become ill with a 9/11 related disease, you will get free health monitoring annually. You can still enroll in the World Trade Center Health Program if you haven't already done so. Should you be diagnosed with any covered illness, you will get care from doctors that specialize in 9/11 related conditions. This is not only a benefit in the care of your 9/11 related cancer and other illnesses, but it is helpful in your 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund claim as well.

Education and Research: With member permission, the WTCHP will collect and analyze data to aid in the understanding of conditions that are related to the exposure of 9/11 toxins and debris. This will help to ensure that the best care and treatment is given to patients throughout the duration of the program. The WTCHP website has many resources for information on how the program works and what it can do for you.

Please note that the World Trade Center Health Program is scheduled to close in 2016. It is uncertain whether or not funding will be available in the future to extend the program. There may be other benefits you are entitled to such as workers' compensation and 3/4 disability pensions that can help with future medical care and costs. Please contact Turley, Hansen & Partners for information on what you can do.

Angela Luongo, a Paralegal with Turley, Hansen & Partners contributed to the writing of this post.

Governor Cuomo Signs Bill To Re-open Registration For 9/11 Disability Pension And Workers' Compensation Claims

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On November 13, 2013, Gov. Cuomo signed a new important bill that extends the registration period for 9/11 workers' compensation claims to September 11, 2014. Ground Zero workers who were previously denied a workers’ compensation claim due to untimely filing by the previous deadline, can now re-file and open a new claim. The bill now includes ¾ disability pensions which were disregarded in the last bill. Certain public employees will now have the right to file for new 9/11 related disability pensions.

Those who participated in the rescue, recovery and cleanup efforts at Ground Zero between September 11, 2001 and September 11, 2002, are now eligible to preserve their right to file future workers’ compensation claims and ¾ disability pensions should  they become sick with a qualifying 911 related condition.Claimants must submit a WTC-12 Registration of Participation form no later than the deadline date of September 11, 2014. This may be especially beneficial to those who are not eligible to apply to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund because they worked in the areas of Ground Zero after May 30, 2002. 

It  is expected that the filing of new workers’ compensation claims and disability pensions will have an impact on pending 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund claims. It is strongly suggested that you speak to a workers’ compensation lawyer knowledgeable in 9/11 claims and disability pensions as soon as possible. Ground Zero workers should register as soon as possible in order to protect their rights to future medical care and compensation after the expiration of the World Trade Center Health Program and the Victim Compensation Fund which closes in 2016.

The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board is currently reviewing their files to locate claims that were previously denied due to untimely registration. Claimants will be sent notification and instructions on what steps to take to initiate their claim.  Claimants who submit new WTC-12 Registration of Participation forms must keep in mind that postmarks will not be accepted. All registrations need to be in the hands of the Workers’ Compensation Board no later than the deadline date.  

If you need help in filing your 9/11 related workers’ compensation claim or ¾ disability pension claim you can call, click the chat button or request to be contacted at the top of this page.

Angela Luongo, a Paralegal with Turley, Hansen & Partners contributed to the writing of this post.

9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Releases 2nd Annual Status Report

 

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VCF Special Master Sheila Birnbaum recently published her annual report on the overall performance of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund over the past year.  The report included a summary of key second year activities as well as filed claims statistics and administrative costs.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund has made much progress by partnering with advocates and elected officials in reaching out to the 9/11 community about the October 3, 2013 registration deadline. Due to the advocacy and outreach, the effort resulted in the large growth of VCF participants as the deadline closed in. Registrations grew from 19, 733 in June to 48,248 by the deadline.

The VCF anticipated that some people may have had trouble with completing the registration process before the deadline date, so they made an interim form available. Anyone who submitted this form via letter, email or fax, was able to protect their right to file a future claim. These individuals were advised that they must still complete the registration process when filing a claim in the future. As of October 31, 2013, statistics show that the majority of Claimants fell into the category of “Responder”  with a total count of 39, 578. The chart below taken from the report breaks down each individual Claimant type.

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The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund also made great strides in working with third parties in order to obtain information needed for Claimants' cases. For example, the VCF has partnered with the FDNY, NYPD, and NYCERS. They can now work directly with thesee organizations on behalf of the Claimant to help determine eligibility and compensation.

One extremely important factor in a Claimant's case is having the illnesses certified as 9/11 related by The World Trade Center Health Program which is run by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). For claimants who were not registered with the World Trade Center Health Program, certification was becoming an obstacle. To speed up the certification process, both NIOSH and the VCF implemented an easier and more comprehensive form in which private physicians can fill out basic information about the Claimant's treatment. Once the forms are completed and submitted to the VCF, they are then reviewed by a contracted independent physician before sending to NIOSH for certification. It is still recommended that the best and fastest way to get certification of your illnesses is directly through the World Trade Center Health Program.

The report also states that most registrants still have not submitted eligibility and compensation forms. The deadline to submit eligibility and compensation forms in its entirety is October 3, 2016. Should you need help filing a 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund claim, please feel free to call, click the chat button or request to be contacted at the top of this page.

Angela Luongo, a Paralegal with Turley, Hansen & Partners contributed to the writing of this post.

Denial Of 9/11 Disability Pensions Overturned: Recent Victory For Two First Responders

Attorney Chet Lukaszewski, a vital member of Turley Hansen and Partners' 9/11 legal team, recently had a hand in reversing disability pension denials for two 9/11 First Responders. They can now receive the World Trade Center disability retirement pensions that they deserve. In an interview, Mr. Lukaszewski says, "The Appellate Division feels people should be awarded based on disability findings under the World Trade Center Presumptive Law."

 

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9/11 Disability Pension Lawyer, Chet Lukaszewski

Under the World Trade Center Presumptive Law, an applicant who participated in the rescue, recovery and clean-up efforts may be entitled to a World Trade Center disability pension; for many uniformed civil servants, like Mr. Lukaszewski’s clients, an NYPD Detective and an FDNY-EMS EMT, that is a three quarter tax free pension. It presents a presumption that if you are or become permanently disabled due to certain conditions  and cannot perform your job responsibilities, then the condition is related to the World Trade Center disaster.  In short, the applicant does not have to present proof that his or her condition is related to September 11th and the aftermath.

Should the pension board disagree that the illness was 9/11 related, then it must provide solid medical evidence that proves the illness was caused by some other factor. The World Trade Center Presumptive Law also covers numerous ‘WTC qualifying conditions’, including cancer and psychological conditions.

The two individuals whom Mr. Lukaszewski represented, were diagnosed with illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other various mental ailments. The pension board ruled that the mental conditions were not related to their services at Ground Zero and so they were initiallly denied 9/11 disabiltiy pensions. Subsequently, Mr. Lukaszweski presented each case to the judges and it was deemed that the original denials were to be overturned. Click the link below to read the entire success story.

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In order to be eligible for a 9/11 disability pension, a World Trade Center Notice (RS6047-N) must have been filed with the New York State and Local Retirement System by September 11, 2010.

If  you have been denied a 9/11 disability pension or would like more information about 9/11 disability pensions and claims, feel free to call, click the chat button or request to be contacted at the top of this page.  Mr. Lukaszewski’s firm’s website is ChetLaw.com.

Angela Luongo, a Paralegal with Turley, Hansen & Partners contributed to the writing of this post.

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