By Jonathan Bennett
Thanks to a new law, most people who performed rescue, recovery or cleanup work after the collapse of the World Trade Center are now eligible to register with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. If someone who is registered develops a 9/11-related illness at any time in the future he or she will be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim. Failure to register by August 14, 2007 will make it impossible to file a claim, even if the worker develops a 9/11-related illness.
The importance of the new law was underlined in early September, when doctors at New York’s Mt. Sinai School of Medicine published a study showing that more than 70 percent of 9,500 9/11 workers and volunteers who had been examined had developed potentially serious respiratory illness.
Those who did rescue, recovery or cleanup work after 9/11 now have an opportunity to ensure that if they ever become ill as a result, all their medical expenses will be covered.
Many workers and volunteers have been prevented from getting compensation because they only began to become sick after the 2-year deadline for filing a claim. Others who were exposed to the toxic atmosphere in Lower Manhattan are healthy now, but may develop a 9/11-related disease in the future. Under the old rules, they would also have been prevented from receiving benefits.
The law applies to most people who did paid or unpaid rescue, recovery or cleanup work in Lower Manhattan south of Canal or Pike Streets between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 12, 2002. It also applies to those who worked at the Staten Island landfill, the barge operation between Manhattan and Staten Island or the New York City morgue. The only workers who are not covered are those who are not in the workers’ compensation system: NYC uniformed services (firefighters, police, sanitation workers), NYC teachers and federal employees. But even those workers are eligible if they also performed any off-duty rescue, recovery or cleanup work, as many of them did.
Anyone who has already filed a claim for 9/11-related workers’ compensation and been turned down because the claim was filed after the 2-year filing deadline had passed, can register and file a new claim under the new law.
Workers who have already filed for workers’ compensation for injuries suffered during the rescue, recovery or cleanup operation should also register under this program in case they develop a 9/11-related condition that is different from the basis of their established claim.
In an effort to inform everyone, whether sick or healthy, who did paid or unpaid work in Lower Manhattan after 9/11 about the program, a group of medical, labor, legal and business organizations have formed a coalition to publicize the program and facilitate registration of everyone who is eligible. Leaders of the coalition, which includes representatives of Mt. Sinai Medical Center, the Laborers’ Health and Safety Trust Fund, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), the Business and Labor Coalition of New York (BALCONY), and workers’ compensation law firms issued a statement about the compensation program’s importance.
“It is imperative that anyone who worked within the boundaries or at the sites detailed in the law register with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board whether they are sick or not,” said the statement. “By joining the registry before the deadline next August, workers and volunteers will preserve their rights to benefits. Failure to register will prevent individuals who may develop cancer or other slow starting diseases from receiving benefits.”
For information about registering and filing claims, contact your union or, on the Internet, visit http://www.nycosh.org/#911WC. Or call NYCOSH at 212-227-6440 ext. 23 (for English) or ext 24 (for Spanish).
Public Affairs Director, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health
116 John Street, Suite 604 New York NY 10038
Tel: 212-227-6440 ext. 14
This site is a resource for responders, their families, medical professionals, and those seeking information about the health effects resulting from the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.http://www.hhs.gov/wtc/