NEW YORK – For many who responded to Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, stark reminders of the unthinkable tragedy and days of sifting through the rubble remain with them every day – inside their lungs.
Despite assurances from government officials that zero ground air was safe, it was later revealed that serious toxins put responders – and those who lived, worked, or studied in Lower Manhattan – at risk for serious health problems. health.
The 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund was established in 2001 to provide financial assistance to those who suffered physical injuries and to the families of those who died in the September 11 attacks and immediately after.
Now, 20 years later, the VCF and the World Trade Center Health Program are actively providing benefits to those who responded to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 and the months since. But the programs are also open to anyone who has lived, worked, or studied in the Lower Manhattan Exhibition Area.
In the years following the terrorist attack, 80% of Ground Zero responders signed up for the program, with NYPD officers, FDNY firefighters and other staff well aware of the benefits available to them. But according to 9/11 lawyer Michael Barasch, less than 10% of the hundreds of thousands more have signed up – most of them because they don’t know they’re eligible.
First, let’s talk a bit about history.
So technically the original VCF closed in 2004. But on January 2, 2011, President Barack Obama enacted the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, aka the Zadroga Act. (Barasch was a lawyer who represented Zadroga.) He reopened the VCF to claims for a period of several years. In 2015, President Donald Trump signed an additional extension to the law.
Fast forward to 2019: In a massive push in Washington led by speakers John Feal and Louis Alvarez, as well as longtime lawyer and talk show host Jon Stewart, Congress passed and President signed a permanent authorization from the VCF, fully funding the program, and extending the filing window until the year 2090.
Ok, so what is VCF?
The Victims Compensation Fund – first launched in 2001 and then expanded for decades to come – provides financial compensation to people who suffered physical injuries or illnesses as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks and their deaths. consequences ; relatives whose family members died of 9/11-related illnesses may also receive compensation.
What is the WTC health program?
This same legislation in 2010 created the World Trade Center health program. It offers free medical follow-up and treatment to people with 9/11-related illnesses for the rest of their lives.
And, if you are certified by the World Trade Center Health Program with a 9/11-related illness, the VCF will award you compensation.
Two of a kind
The VCF and the WTC health program are closely related and work a lot together, even though they are different entities.
Barasch recommends that anyone who is eligible who lived, worked, or studied in the exhibit area – or those who responded to Ground Zero – enroll in both programs as soon as possible, even if you are in perfect health. You block your eligibility and if you fall ill at a later date from an illness related to September 11, you get these benefits to help you.
If you signed up for both programs and get sick later, you must submit it to the World Trade Center Health Program. They would then certify you and provide you with medical treatment – and the VCF will provide you with financial compensation.
In addition to those in New York, responders and others at the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., Also qualify.
Additionally, for affected individuals who have moved, eligibility does not change. Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat who represents parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, said of the country’s 435 congressional districts, 434 of them have someone on the health program.
At the time this article was published, there was a bill in Congress to provide additional funding to programs, due to an increase in the number of associated illnesses, inflation and other financial specifics not taken. taken into account in recent laws.
âWe are committed to never forget; we have to keep that commitment, âsaid Maloney.
I’ve heard of a delay. Is it too late for me to register?
No! The recent July 29 deadline that made headlines and prompted lawmakers to sign up to as many people as possible only applied to one very specific scenario.
It was intended for relatives of people who died of illnesses linked to September 11 more than two years ago. These families had a window that extended their right to register a claim more than two years after the death of their loved one.
For families of loved ones who enroll in these programs, in the future, you must enroll within two years of the date of their death. Still, says Barasch, don’t be discouraged: the special master – who runs the program – will listen to extenuating circumstances to help families who missed the deadline.
âDon’t assume you’re not eligible, sign up anyway,â Barasch said. “Don’t waste this opportunity.”
Did this guy take his own advice?
Yes. Barasch said he and all of his eligible staff have signed up. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Barasch was training in a gymnasium a few blocks from the World Trade Center. His office was only a few blocks away. Several employees on his team have suffered from 9/11 health complications over the years.
How can I apply?
To register for VCF, visit www.vcf.org or click here.
To register for the WTC Health Program, visit www.cdc.gov/wtc or click here.
Common Advocates Council: Register for each separately and do so at the same time.
In addition, applying as early as possible is advantageous, as it will be easier for you to gather all the necessary documents to prove your eligibility.
What do I have to prove?
You may need documents, such as an employment verification or a reference letter from a witness proving that you were in fact in the exhibition area between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002.
Why is it so complicated? Can’t I just say I was there?
Whenever the government gives money, there is always a problem of fraud. In order to make sure people don’t take advantage of the system, you need to prove that you qualify.
Sounds like one of those late night commercials telling me I can make some money
Of course, but it’s completely legitimate. It’s appropriated by Congress, funded by the government, run by federal officials, and exists to ensure that the heroes who stepped in to help New York City recover from the tragedy, and those in Lower Manhattan who breathed toxins without know, are taken care of for the rest. of their life.
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