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Chronic Sinusitis in 9/11 Responders

doctor and patient with sinusitis

Affecting more than 26,000 responders, chronic rhinosinusitis — commonly known as chronic sinusitis — is the most common 9/11-related health condition certified by the World Trade Center Health Program. As a result of breathing in the toxins in the 9/11 dust cloud that covered lower Manhattan in the months after the terrorist attacks, some responders developed sinusitis very soon after exposure. Others may not have realized their severe sinus issues were related to the recovery work at Ground Zero until years later. 

Not only can chronic sinusitis be extremely painful, but it can have a substantial impact on your quality of life. If you are a 9/11 responder who suffers from this condition due to working in the New York City Exposure Zone in the weeks and months after the terrorist attacks, you may be entitled to compensation. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund issues monetary awards to eligible responders for their economic and non-economic losses arising from 9/11-related chronic sinusitis. 

9/11-Related Chronic Sinusitis Symptoms

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, countless chemicals and contaminants filled the air at Ground Zero and in the surrounding area for months. Upon inhalation, these particles deposited into the nasal passages of responders who lacked proper and effective personal protective equipment, resulting in severe sinus inflammation. Critically, those who arrived early to assist with the rescue and recovery efforts or worked in the NYC Exposure Zone for six months or more may have suffered the worst effects. 

According to a study that looked at chronic sinusitis in 9/11 firefighters, those who responded to Ground Zero within the first two days after the terrorist attacks faced a higher risk of severe symptoms and were 45% more likely to require surgery. However, any responders who spent time working on the rescue and recovery efforts are at risk of being diagnosed with the condition.   

9/11 responders who suffer from chronic sinusitis may experience a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Headaches
  • Pressure in the nasal cavity
  • Facial tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Nasal pain
  • Fever and fatigue
  • Congestion
  • Nasal drainage
  • Postnasal drip
  • Sore throat or cough

When multiple symptoms are experienced at once over the course of one to three months, it is usually an indication of chronic sinusitis. Diagnosing sinusitis may require CAT scans, MRIs, or an endoscopy. In many cases, sinusitis can be treated with nasal corticosteroids, oral or injected corticosteroids, and antibiotics if a bacterial infection is present. Some who suffer from the condition may also find saline nasal irrigation helpful. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

VCF Presumptively Covered Expenses for Chronic Sinusitis

The VCF recognizes the prevalence of chronic sinusitis among 9/11 responders. Significantly, various medications and medical procedures in connection with the condition are presumptively covered expenses. In other words, a responder who suffers from chronic sinusitis does not need to submit any further proof that the treatment for which they are seeking reimbursement is connected with their VCF eligible condition. Importantly, the condition must still be certified by the WTC Health Program in order to receive compensation from the VCF.  

VCF presumptively covered expenses for chronic sinusitis may include out-of-pocket costs for Flonase nasal spray, Nasonex, Afrin, Atrovent, Astelin, oral corticosteroids, decongestants, and antibiotics. The VCF also reimburses the cost of procedures associated with chronic sinusitis diagnosis or treatment, including PET scans, CAT scans, endoscopy, septoplasty, and nasal or sputum cultures.    

In order to recover the costs of your medication or treatment for chronic sinusitis, an amendment to your claim will have to be submitted to the VCF. It’s crucial to understand that the VCF does not issue compensation for these expenses when you file your initial claim — only after you have incurred $5,000 or more in medical expenses will the VCF review the amendment and reimburse your out-of-pocket costs. 

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

Chronic sinusitis can be debilitating. If you’re a 9/11 responder who developed this condition in connection with your recovery work at Ground Zero or in the NYC Exposure Zone, you may be entitled to receive an award from the VCF. However, the VCF’s regulations can be complicated, confusing, and difficult to navigate. It’s essential to have an experienced VCF attorney on your side who can help ensure you obtain the maximum amount of 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 over a decade. For a free consultation, contact us today.


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