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Are 9/11 Sanitation Workers Eligible for VCF Compensation?


In the days and weeks following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, thousands of sanitation workers participated in the recovery and cleanup efforts. Because they inhaled the toxins in the dust cloud that covered Ground Zero and Lower Manhattan after the towers collapsed, many became sick, and 100 have passed away. Tragically, DSNY employees continue to be diagnosed with many different 9/11-related illnesses to this day.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was established to ensure that every eligible responder and survivor obtains the compensation they deserve for their 9/11 health condition — including those who worked for the Department of Sanitation. If you were a DSNY employee who developed an illness in connection with the duties you carried out in the NYC Exposure Zone, you may be entitled to an award from the VCF.        

VCF Compensation for 9/11 Sanitation Workers

Within 24 hours after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 1,500 sanitation workers arrived at Ground Zero. For 39 weeks, approximately 3,700 DSNY employees were present in Lower Manhattan to facilitate the debris removal process. Significantly, as many as 17,500 tons of debris were processed each day at the Fresh Kills landfill, and operations continued for more than ten months.

Exposure to the dust cloud caused 9/11 sanitation workers to suffer a variety of illnesses, including various forms of cancer, airway conditions, digestive disorders, respiratory diseases, musculoskeletal conditions, and acute traumatic injuries. Unfortunately, the conditions diagnosed in these responders are often serious and severely impact their daily lives. In many cases, they can also be physically debilitating.     

The VCF awards compensation to DSNY employees who incurred economic losses due to their 9/11 diseases, including out-of-pocket medical expenses. Also factored into the award are any loss of pension or retirement benefits for those who were forced to retire early due to their conditions. Additionally, sanitation workers may be awarded for their non-economic losses based on the severity of the illness. Under the Zadroga Act, the maximum pain and suffering payout for a non-cancer is $90,000, and cancer conditions are compensated in amounts up to $250,000.    

VCF Eligibility Criteria for DSNY Employees

In order to be entitled to a monetary award from the VCF, there are certain eligibility requirements. The Zadroga Act sets forth specific criteria that must be met regarding location, time frame, and health condition certification. Specifically, 9/11 responders, including sanitation workers, must have:

  • Been diagnosed with a 9/11-related health condition certified by the WTC Health Program
  • Worked at Ground Zero, in the area south of Canal Street, or along the debris removal route, including the barges or Fresh Kills landfill
  • Performed their duties or were present in the NYC Exposure Zone between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002

A 9/11 sanitation worker will not be able to receive the VCF compensation to which they’re entitled unless their health condition is first certified by the WTC Health Program. While these two entities are distinct and have different eligibility criteria, they work closely together.   

Families of sanitation workers who passed away due to their 9/11-related illnesses may also be entitled to receive a VCF award in a wrongful death claim if they meet criteria for eligibility.

Contact a New York 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney

If you were a DSNY employee who worked at Ground Zero, at the Fresh Kills landfill, or along the debris route after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, you may be entitled to compensation from the VCF. However, the VCF’s regulations can be confusing, and filing a claim is often frustrating. It’s best to have an experienced 9/11 VCF attorney by your side who can help you navigate the process and ensure you obtain the maximum compensation available.   

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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