If you’re a 9/11 responder, it’s crucial to monitor your health for any illnesses connected with inhaling the toxic dust cloud that covered lower Manhattan in the days and weeks following the terrorist attacks. Those who aided in the rescue, recovery, and clean-up efforts — as well as people who lived, worked, or went to school in the area — face significant health risks as a result of being present in the NYC Exposure Zone. But with proper screening through the WTC Health Program, 9/11 health conditions can be detected early and have a better chance of being successfully treated.
What is the WTC Health Program?
The WTC Health Program is a federal program that offers health monitoring for 9/11 responders and survivors at no cost to them. Treatment for 9/11-related illnesses is also provided through the Program to those who meet the eligibility requirements. In addition, the WTC Health Program certifies 9/11 health conditions in responders and survivors for the purposes of obtaining VCF compensation.
WTC Health Program Eligibility Requirements for Responders
It’s important not to confuse the WTC Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Each program has separate eligibility requirements. However, any 9/11 health condition must first be certified by the Program in order to receive a monetary award from the VCF.
To qualify for enrollment in the WTC Health Program, a responder has to meet four specific requirements — activity, time period, location, and hours. Each eligible group has its own criteria as follows:
- FDNY — Active and retired FDNY members can enroll in the Program if they aided in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero, the Staten Island Landfill, or the NYC Chief Medical Examiner’s Office between September 11, 2001 and July 31, 2002. The minimum amount of time they must have spent at any of these locations is four hours.
- WTC General Responders — Rescue, recovery, clean-up, and related support services workers can qualify for the Program if they worked or volunteered in lower Manhattan south of Canal Street, at the Staten Island Landfill, or at certain barge loading piers. They must have been present for four hours between September 11, 2001 and September 14, 2001; for 24 hours between September 11, 2001 and September 30, 2001; or for 80 hours between September 11, 2001 and July 31, 2002.
- NYPD and Port Authority Police — Active or retired members of the NYPD or Port Authority who participated in the rescue, recovery, and clean-up may be eligible for WTC Health Program enrollment if they worked south of Canal Street, at the Staten Island Landfill, or certain barge loading piers for four hours between September 11, 2001 to September 14, 2001. They are also eligible if they were present for four hours at Ground Zero, the Staten Island Landfill, or certain barge loading piers from September 11, 2001 to July 31, 2002. There is a 24-hour minimum time requirement for those who worked south of Canal Street from September 11, 2001 to September 30, 2001 — and an 80-hour minimum time period requirement through July 31, 2002.
- Chief Medical Examiner’s Office and Morgue Workers — Employees of Chief Medical Examiner’s Office and other morgue workers qualify for enrollment if they worked a minimum of four hours between September 11, 2001 and July 31, 2002 at the Bellevue Hospital morgue or a Chief Medical Examiner’s office location.
- Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation Tunnel Workers — Those who worked at Port Authority Trans-Hudson Tunnel between February 1, 2002 and July 1, 2002 for a minimum of 24 hours qualify for the Program.
- Vehicle-Maintenance Workers — Workers exposed to debris while driving, cleaning, or repairing vehicles contaminated by airborne toxins from September 11, 2001 to July 31, 2002 for four hours or more can enroll in the Program.
The WTC Health Program requires that responders submit certain documentation supporting their eligibility. It’s critical to be aware that this application process differs from the VCF’s registration and claim filing process.
WTC Health Program Certification and VCF Compensation
In addition to meeting the above time and presence criteria, a 9/11 illness must meet the minimum latency requirements and be on the WTC-Related Health Conditions List in order to be certified by the WTC Health Program. Hundreds of conditions are covered on the List, including every form of cancer, aerodigestive disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, as well as acute and traumatic injuries. For a condition to be certifiable, a WTC Health Program doctor must also determine that exposure to the dust cloud was substantially likely to have caused or aggravated the condition.
While the WTC Health Program treats mental health conditions, VCF compensation is only awarded for physical conditions. In accordance with the Zadroga Act, the VCF awards up to $90,000 for a non-cancer condition and a maximum of $250,000 for a cancer. The Special Master may issue compensation above the statutory cap for multiple cancers, or for a cancer and a severe non-cancer condition.
Contact an Experienced 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney
If you’re a 9/11 responder, it’s vital to enroll in the WTC Health Program — as well as register with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. A knowledgeable 9/11 VCF attorney can help ensure you obtain the maximum monetary award you deserve for your 9/11-related health condition.
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.