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Respiratory Problems in 9/11 Responders

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Respiratory problems are some of the most common illnesses faced by 9/11 responders. More than half of the WTC Health Program’s top ten conditions certified in responders are respiratory issues or conditions linked to them. In addition, studies show that those who responded to the attacks early sustained a significant reduction in lung capacity — and many responders continue to suffer from the adverse health effects to this day. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund awards compensation to responders who have experienced economic and non-economic losses due to their 9/11-related respiratory problems.   

9/11-Related Respiratory Issues 

Due to airway injuries resulting from exposure to the toxins and chemicals in the 9/11 dust cloud, thousands of responders suffer from a variety of ongoing respiratory problems. Specifically, inhalants in the dust cloud, such as alkaline silica dust, could deposit in the airways resulting in inflammation, scarring, and narrowing. Responders who worked at Ground Zero or in the NYC Exposure Zone and didn’t use personal protective equipment are most at risk of developing 9/11-related respiratory problems.

According to statistics published by the WTC Health Program, more than 26,000 responders suffer from chronic rhinosinusitis, making it the most common 9/11-related physical health condition. Other common respiratory problems in 9/11 responders can include:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic cough
  • Sleep apnea
  • COPD
  • Chronic respiratory disorder
  • Reactive airway dysfunction syndrome
  • Upper airways hyperreactivity
  • Chronic nasopharyngitis

FDNY and NYPD members, EMTs, National Guard members, Con Ed responders, construction workers, electrical workers, and other many other eligible responders may all be affected by these types of conditions and entitled to compensation from the VCF.

9/11 Respiratory Problems and the WTC Health Program

In order to submit a claim to receive a monetary award from the VCF for a 9/11-related respiratory condition, it must first be certified by the WTC Health Program. The program is a separate entity from the VCF that offers medical treatment and monitoring for 9/11 responders and survivors. While a wide range of respiratory conditions are recognized as certifiable, it’s important to understand that the eligibility criteria for the WTC Health Program differs from that of the VCF.

VCF Compensation for 9/11 Respiratory Issues

Responders who have sustained 9/11 respiratory issues may be awarded compensation for loss of earnings or employment benefits, loss of pension, and out-of-pocket medical expenses in connection with their illness.

The VCF also compensates for non-economic loss for the pain and suffering a responder experienced in connection with their 9/11-related health condition. The maximum non-economic loss compensation awarded for a non-cancer condition — including respiratory illnesses — is $90,000 and is determined by the severity of the condition. For instance, a responder with a progressive respiratory condition that restricts their ability to work and participate in their usual activities will receive a higher non-economic loss award than someone with a mild condition that doesn’t significantly impact their daily life.   

The maximum amount of compensation is only issued when a respiratory condition is consistent, on-going, and severe. However, the Special Master has determined that certain conditions linked to respiratory problems can receive the full statutory amount without further proof of its severity. These conditions include emphysema, interstitial lung disease, asbestosis, and sarcoidosis.  

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

If you’re an eligible responder who suffers from a 9/11 respiratory illness linked to the toxic dust cloud, you may be entitled to receive an award from the VCF. However, filing a claim can be a confusing and overwhelming process. It’s best to work with a knowledgeable 9/11 VCF attorney who can help you navigate the process and 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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