The toxic dust cloud that covered Lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks caused various adverse health conditions in responders and survivors. One of the most common respiratory illnesses diagnosed in those who were present in the NYC Exposure Zone in the weeks and months following 9/11 is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If you are an eligible responder or survivor who suffers from this condition, you may be entitled to obtain a monetary award from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
What Is 9/11 COPD?
More than twenty years later, responders and survivors continue to develop 9/11-related COPD and its associated symptoms. COPD is a disease that causes inflammation in the lungs and obstructs airflow, leading to difficulty breathing, coughing, and wheezing. While the condition is typically associated with smoking, it can also be caused by exposure to other irritating toxins or particulate matter — such as the compounds in the 9/11 dust cloud. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two most common health conditions contributing to COPD.
Critically, research has revealed that those who responded early at Ground Zero have a 30% higher risk of developing COPD than those who arrived later. Responders and survivors diagnosed with COPD typically experience symptoms such as fatigue, chest tightness, shortness of breath, unintended weight loss, recurring respiratory infections, and swelling of the legs and feet. Even though COPD is progressive and can significantly impact quality of life, the condition is also treatable.
Economic Loss and Non-Economic Loss Claims for 9/11 COPD
If you were certified with 9/11 COPD by the WTC Health Program (or through the private physician process) and meet the VCF’s eligibility criteria, you may be entitled to recover compensation from the VCF for your economic and non-economic losses. The VCF issues compensation for various economic losses connected to 9/11-related illnesses, such as loss of earnings, future lost earnings, loss of pensions or retirement contribution programs, replacement services, and medical expenses.
Eligible responders and survivors who were diagnosed with COPD may also be entitled to compensation for their non-pecuniary losses associated with the condition. Also referred to as “pain and suffering,” non-economic losses are meant to compensate you for how the illness impacted your life. Non-cancer conditions such as COPD are generally awarded between $10,000 and $90,000 — depending upon the severity of the illness.
Presumptively Compensable Expenses for 9/11 COPD
In addition to compensation for your economic and non-economic losses, you may also be entitled to reimbursement for the out-of-pocket medical costs associated with your treatment. However, the VCF deems certain expenses “presumptively compensable.” No further proof of the relationship between the treatment and condition is necessary when filing an amendment for medical expense reimbursement for these types of expenses. Rather, the VCF presumes that specific medical expenses incurred due to the treatment of 9/11 COPD are related to the condition.
Presumptively compensable expenses for COPD can include the following medications and procedures:
- MRIs and CT scans
- Chest X-rays
- Various other medications and procedures
Importantly, the VCF only allows claims to be filed for out-of-pocket medical expenses once they have exceeded $5,000. Instead of including them in your initial claim, you must request them by filing an amendment to your initial claim. An amendment for medical expense reimbursement can be submitted at any time before the October 1, 2090, claim filing deadline.
Contact an Experienced New York City 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney
If you are a 9/11 responder or survivor who has been diagnosed with 9/11-related COPD, you may be entitled to compensation from the VCF. However, the VCF’s procedures can often be confusing and overwhelming. It is critical to have the representation of a knowledgeable VCF attorney who can help ensure that you receive the maximum award to which you are entitled.
The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorneys at The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. have represented claimants and their families in 9/11 VCF claims for over a decade. For a free consultation, contact us today.