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Aerodigestive Disorders in 9/11 Responders and Survivors


Twenty years after September 11, 2001, countless responders and survivors continue to suffer various health problems as a result of inhaling the toxins in the air throughout lower Manhattan in the weeks and months following the terrorist attacks. Significantly, aerodigestive disorders are some of the most common types of illnesses linked to the chemicals found in the 9/11 dust cloud. In fact, 45% of responders enrolled in the WTC Health Program have health conditions that affect the airways and upper digestive tract.   

Types of Aerodigestive Disorders and Maximum Time Intervals

There are six categories of aerodigestive disorders recognized as certifiable by the WTC Health Program and eligible for compensation from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Importantly, each new-onset aerodigestive disorder has an applicable maximum time interval — this is the maximum allowable time period between a responder or survivor’s 9/11 exposure and the onset of symptoms.

The categories and maximum time intervals for 9/11 aerodigestive disorders are as follows:

  • Category I — WTC-Exacerbated and New-Onset Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): No maximum time interval.
  • Category II — Other Obstructive Airways Diseases (including chronic respiratory disorders, asthma, reactive airways dysfunction syndrome, and chronic cough syndrome): 5-year maximum time interval
  • Category III — Upper respiratory diseases (including upper airway hyperreactivity, chronic rhinosinusitis, chronic nasopharyngitis, and chronic laryngitis): 5-year maximum time interval
  • Category IV — All types of interstitial lung diseases: No maximum time interval
  • Category V — Co-occurring gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD co-occurring with one of the above aerodigestive disorders): 5-year maximum time interval  
  • Category VI — Isolated gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD not occurring with any of the above conditions): 1-year maximum time interval

Critically, unlike other types of 9/11-related illnesses, there is no minimum latency period or time interval for aerodigestive disorders. This is because the symptoms associated with each category were identified in responders and survivors shortly after September 11, 2001.

VCF Compensation for 9/11 Aerodigestive Disorders

If you’re a responder or survivor with an aerodigestive disorder linked to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, you may be entitled to an award from the VCF. The VCF compensates for the economic damages you incurred due to your 9/11-related health condition, including lost earnings, loss of benefits, and out-of-pocket expenses in connection with your medical treatment.

Additionally, the VCF also compensates for the pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life experienced by responders and survivors by issuing non-economic loss awards. While the maximum amount of non-economic loss a responder or survivor may be able to obtain for an aerodigestive disorder is $90,000 under the Zadroga Act, the award can vary depending on the severity of the condition.  

Since certain aerodigestive disorders — such as obstructive airway diseases, interstitial lung disease, GERD, and upper respiratory diseases — are so common among survivors and responders, the VCF considers various medications and procedures to treat them to be presumptively compensable expenses. The VCF does not require additional documentation if you are submitting an amendment for medical expense reimbursement associated with any of these illnesses.  

Contact a New York City 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney

A 9/11-related aerodigestive disorder can have a substantial impact on your life, livelihood, and family — and you may be entitled to receive an award from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. However, registering to file a claim with the VCF can be confusing and frustrating. It’s best to have the representation of a knowledgeable 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorney who can help ensure you secure the maximum compensation 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.


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