Gastroesophageal reflux disease — also known as GERD — is one of the most frequently found health conditions in 9/11 responders and survivors. Next to chronic rhinosinusitis, GERD is the second most commonly certified condition for responders by the WTC Health Program, with 24,480 responders having been diagnosed with the illness to date. It’s also the third most commonly found 9/11-related disease in survivors.
If you were a responder or survivor who developed GERD as a result of being in the NYC Exposure Zone in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, you might be entitled to compensation from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The VCF awards monetary recovery to eligible responders and survivors for the economic and non-economic losses they have suffered due to 9/11-related GERD.
GERD Symptoms and Treatment
The toxins found in the 9/11 dust cloud have been linked to various aerodigestive disorders, including GERD. Specifically, GERD affects the lower esophageal sphincter — the ring of muscles between the esophagus and stomach. GERD occurs when the esophageal sphincter becomes weak, resulting in food and stomach acid flowing up to the esophagus. GERD typically presents with symptoms consistent with acid reflux or persistent heartburn.
Other common symptoms of GERD can include:
- Burning feeling in the chest
- Pain in chest
- Difficulty swallowing
- A lump sensation in the throat
- Bitter or sour taste in the back of the mouth
Complications can arise if GERD is left untreated, including esophagitis and Barrett’s esophagus — a condition that can lead to esophageal cancer. If GERD worsens, it can also cause respiratory problems and esophageal stricture. It’s critical for responders and survivors to register with the WTC Health Program to ensure they are properly monitored for 9/11-related health conditions, including GERD.
9/11 GERD may be diagnosed through X-rays, an endoscopy, an ambulatory probe test, or esophageal manometry. Depending on the extent of the illness, a doctor might recommend making adjustments to your lifestyle or taking over-the-counter medications. However, stronger medications may be prescribed. Although medications are usually effective in controlling GERD, there are certain surgical procedures your doctor may suggest if they do not help.
VCF Compensation for 9/11 GERD
The VCF awards monetary recovery to eligible responders and survivors for the economic and non-economic losses they have suffered as a result of a diagnosis of 9/11-related GERD. Significantly, to receive any compensation from the VCF for your condition, it must first be certified by the WTC Health Program.
If you have been diagnosed with GERD, an economic loss award from the VCF can cover lost earnings, loss of benefits, and out-of-pocket expenses incurred in connection with your medical treatment. An award for non-economic loss is meant to compensate you for the pain and suffering you endured due to your 9/11-related condition. Under the Zadroga Act, the VCF payout for GERD and other non-cancer conditions is capped at $90,000, based on the severity of the condition.
Since GERD is common among 9/11 responders and survivors, the VCF considers various medications and procedures in connection with GERD to be presumptively compensable expenses. This means that further documentation is not necessary if you are filing an amendment to your VCF claim to be reimbursed for medical expenses in connection with 9/11-related GERD.
Contact a New York City 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney
9/11 GERD can have a substantial impact on your life, and if you may be entitled to receive an award from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for your condition. However, the process of registering with the VCF and filing a claim can be confusing and overwhelming. It is beneficial to have an experienced 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorney on your side who can help ensure you receive the VCF award you deserve.
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 more than a decade. For a free consultation, contact us today.