The WTC Health Program offers health screening and medical treatment to responders and survivors for their 9/11-related diseases, illnesses, and cancers at no cost. The Program also works closely with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to issue monetary awards to those diagnosed with illnesses linked to the attack’s toxic dust cloud. If you’re a responder or survivor, you may wonder what to expect at the WTC Health Program’s initial screening. Critically, if this health evaluation results in a finding of a certified condition, a responder or survivor can receive annual monitoring exams, medical care for their 9/11-related illness, and pharmacy benefits.
What Happens at the Initial Health Evaluation?
The first appointment with the WTC Health Program is called the initial health evaluation — or “baseline monitoring exam.” At this appointment, the Program provider will run a variety of tests and collect health information. Typically, an evaluation lasts between two and four hours. The provider will discuss the initial results after the evaluation, and a lab report will be sent.
At the initial health evaluation, there are a number of documents and tests that must be completed, including the following:
- A medical history questionnaire
- An assessment regarding exposure to the 9/11 toxins
- Blood tests
- A physical exam
- Breathing tests (spirometry/pulmonary function testing)
- A vital signs check (blood pressure, body temperature, respiration rate, and heart rate)
If certain guidelines are met, a chest X-ray, an EKG, and a urine test may also be conducted. In the event the evaluation reveals a 9/11-related health condition, it will have to go through the certification process before treatment will be covered and the VCF will consider a claim.
How Should Responders and Survivors Prepare for the Initial Health Evaluation?
To prepare for the initial health evaluation, responders and survivors should consult with an experienced VCF attorney to learn about the available benefits, their rights, and responsibilities. They can also assist with completing any required paperwork prior to the first visit. Notably, responders and survivors should be prepared to discuss the details regarding their exposure to the 9/11 toxins, their work history, and current symptoms.
Before the first appointment, it’s crucial to make a list of any symptoms experienced — such as difficulty sleeping, persistent coughing, runny nose — regardless of whether the symptoms might be related to 9/11 exposure. It’s essential to compile a list of questions to ask the health provider and be sure to note any current medications or prescriptions. In addition, responders should bring their medical records, Workers’ Compensation paperwork, or line-of-duty injury paperwork as applicable. Survivors must present their primary insurance card at the initial evaluation and every subsequent appointment.
The WTC Health Program covers five categories of conditions, including acute traumatic injuries, aerodigestive disorders, all forms of cancer, musculoskeletal disorders, and mental health conditions. However, it is critical to be aware that while treatment for mental health conditions (including PTSD, depression, and substance abuse) is covered by the Program, the VCF only issues monetary awards for physical health conditions.
Contact an Experienced 9/11 VCF Attorney
If you have been diagnosed with a 9/11-related health condition, it’s important to have a knowledgeable VCF attorney by your side who can guide you through the process of obtaining WTC Health Program certification and filing a VCF claim. 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.