If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with a lung condition due to the events of 9/11, you may be eligible to receive compensation.
Lung Conditions Caused by 9/11
The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and several airlines the morning of September 11, 2001, had a much greater health impact on hundreds of first responders and others than anyone could have predicted at the time. The dark day in American history not only claimed nearly 3,000 lives instantly, but it also caused serious health conditions that later proved fatal for some. Lung disease is just one of the many complications that arose for people who inhaled toxic dust while working the Ground Zero clean-up site.
If you developed respiratory diseases in the years after 9/11, you may be eligible for a one-time settlement from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). We are pleased to announce that two of the premier personal injury law firms in New York City, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm and Gregory J. Cannata & Associates, have joined forces as Fuchsberg-Cannata Law Firms to assist rescue workers and others who later became ill from toxic dust exposure.
If your lung disease or respiratory diseases qualify, we can help you apply to the appropriate programs right away. You would start with the World Trade Center Health Program and then sign up for the Victim Compensation Fund. By working with an attorney with several years of experience in lung conditions caused by 9/11, you can avoid frustrating delays from not understanding the documentation requirements or even a denial of your claim.
With the permanent reauthorization of the fund in July 2019, you may be eligible for compensation even if you haven’t been in the past. We invite you to start the process by meeting with one of our personal injury attorneys for a free consultation. You may reach us at 1-888-WTC-VICTIM or by completing an appointment request form on our website.
What is the World Trade Center Health Program?
Before you can make a claim with the VCF, you must first enroll in the WTC Health Program. This enables you to obtain the required certification for your lung disease or respiratory diseases. The program also offers medical monitoring for your health condition and coordination of your medical care related to treating it. You must enroll in the WTC Health Program by July 2021, the two-year anniversary of the permanent reauthorization of the fund. Prior to enrolling, you need to ensure that you fall into one of four groups of people who potentially developed a serious health condition due to the terrorist attacks. These include:
- Fire Department New York (FDNY) first responders
- Pentagon and Shanksville plane crash site first responders
- World Trade Center first responders
- World Trade Center survivors include those who lived, worked, or attended school anywhere in the New York City disaster area.
Each group has several subgroups, each of which has its own criteria regarding your physical location, activity, time spent in the disaster zone, and the minimum number of hours you must have been present. The earliest eligibility date for all programs is September 11, 2001, with ending dates ranging from late 2001 to early 2003. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) oversees the administration of the VCF. It’s okay if you’re not sure which group you belong to from the above list. We can help you determine that when you start working with us.
You will need to provide specific documentation to the WTC Health Program depending on whether you’re a first responder or a WTC survivor. All documents need to be official copies and prove the eligibility you listed when submitting your registration. Documents required for responders include:
- The activity or type of work you performed that later led to a lung condition
- The address or street name where you worked in the post-9/11 clean-up and debris removal efforts
- The time you worked at each location
- The number of hours per day you worked at each location
Here are some examples of legal documents that can help you meet this requirement:
- Award or letter of commendation for your work at Ground Zero if the letter contains specific dates or locations of the duties and work you performed.
- Letter from your union or employer that state your specific activities, hours, days, and location from September 11, 2001, to the specific end date for your program.
- Letter from the New York Workers’ Compensation Board if you have received any compensation for your lung conditions caused by 9/11.
- Police memo book that shows the hours, time and days you worked at the World Trade Center or another approved 9/11 site.
- Timesheet or overtime report that indicates the hours, time, day, and names of the streets where you worked.
If you’re registering for the WTC health program as a survivor, you need copies of written documents that prove you lived, worked, attended school, or attended daycare for children or adults in the area declared the New York City Disaster Area between September 11, 2001, and July 31, 2002. Program eligibility also extends to survivors caught in the cloud of dust on the day of the terrorist attacks. The following are acceptable forms of documentation for survivors:
- The address of your home, place of employment, school, or daycare during the dates of eligibility.
- Proof of your presence in the toxic dust cloud on September 11, 2001.
- Proof that you’re eligible to receive a grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Residential Grant Program.
- Utility bill showing your address between September 11, 2001, and July 31, 2002.
- School transcript from the fall of 2001.
- Student identification card between the eligible dates.
- Pay stub that shows your location between the eligible dates.
- A letter from your employer, neighbor, resident manager, school, volunteer organization, or daycare center between the eligible dates.
- Documentation or grant letter from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation WTC Small Firms Attraction and Retention Act with an eligibility date between September 11, 2001, and May 31, 2003, that shows your employer received a grant.
- Documentation or grant letter from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation with a date between September 11, 2001, and May 31, 2003, that shows your place of residence received a grant.
Regardless of the documentation you submit, it must contain your full name the required time period for your claimed activity. We can help you track down these documents if necessary. The WTC Health Program also has stipulations if you’re unable to produce the required documents after all this time.
You’re ready to submit your application to the WTC Health Program once you have determined your classification and submitted the required documentation matching that classification. You can submit the application electronically through the Centers for Disease Control website at this link, which also provides information if you prefer to print and mail your application. The program operates seven locations in New York and one in New Jersey.
Understanding the Victim Compensation Fund
In December 2001, three months after the World Trade Center fell, President George W. Bush authorized the first September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The earliest applicants were those with respiratory diseases, and the program ran until 2004. It then remained dormant until 2010 when President Barack Obama reauthorized it. By this time, the program was seeing many more applicants with slow-growing cancers. Obama again reauthorized the fund in 2015.
In July 2019, President Donald Trump passed legislation from Congress reauthorizing the fund yet again until the year 2090. The official name of the legislation is Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeiffer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. It’s commonly referred to by shorter names, including the Health and Compensation Act or just VCF. Zadroga, Pfeiffer, and Alvarez were all first responders with the New York Police Department (NYPD) or Fire Department New York (FDNY) who passed away from cancer and other serious illnesses after working in the New York City disaster area after the terrorist attacks.
Enrolling in the Victim Compensation Fund doesn’t obligate you to file a claim right away. It simply reserves your right to do so anytime between now and 2090. We recommend that you take advantage of the online option and submit your claim through this link with the Centers for Disease Control website. You will also be able to upload supporting documents through the same link. If you need to amend a previous claim or start a new claim after a previous denial, you can do that as well.
The Victim Compensation Fund award for lung conditions caused by 9/11 depends on your diagnosis, the severity, time of exposure, and several other conditions. We are happy to review this with you in more detail during your initial consultation. With so many individual variables, it would be impossible to say the amount you might receive in advance.
Common Lung Diseases and Respiratory Diseases Caused by Toxic Dust Exposure
According to Robert Brackbill, an author and medical researcher who contributed an article to an open-access journal called Immunology Today, a positive correlation exists between exposure to toxic dust on the single day of September 11, 2001, and the development of chronic lung disease up to 10 years later. Below are the lung diseases and respiratory diseases covered by the Victim Compensation Fund.
- Asthma: This chronic lung condition causes narrowing and inflammation of the airways in the lungs. It is the inflammation that causes swelling of the airways. The most common symptoms of asthma include coughing, tightness in the chest, wheezing, and shortness of breath. An asthma attack occurs when the person suffering from this health condition is exposed to a trigger such as dust or cigarette smoke.
- Chronic cough syndrome: In adults, doctors consider a cough chronic when it lasts for eight weeks or more. That drops to four weeks for children. The health effects of a chronic cough can include interrupted sleep, lightheadedness, vomiting, or even rib fractures in severe cases.
- Chronic laryngitis: When you have laryngitis, it means that your voice box has become inflamed due to infection, irritation, or overuse. Your larynx houses your vocal cords, and the vocal cords normally respond to vibration and movement to produce sounds. Infected or irritated vocal chords can make your voice sounds hoarse, which can be all the time when you have a chronic case of it. For some people, chronic laryngitis gets so bad that they can’t speak above a whisper.
- Chronic nasopharyngitis: Everyone has experienced the common cold. When you have chronic nasopharyngitis, however, it’s like having a cold all the time. In addition to the typical coughing, sneezing, and runny nose, you might also experience chronic low-grade fever, body aches, or fatigue.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): This is a progressive disease, which means that it usually gets worse over time. People with COPD have difficulty breathing and may gasp for breath at times. The most common symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and mucus production. After cigarette smoking, exposure to toxic dust and other chemicals is one of the leading ways that people develop COPD. Exposure to World Trade Center dust makes it easy to understand the high prevalence of COPD among Ground Zero first responders. The WTC Health Program recognizes two types of COPD, new-onset COPD, and WTC-exacerbated COPD.
- Chronic respiratory diseases: Lung conditions to due inhaling of smoke and vapors
- Chronic rhinosinusitis: This condition becomes chronic once you have dealt with swelling and inflammation of your nasal sinuses for three months or longer. Chronic rhinosinusitis is common. It disrupts the normal drainage of mucus, which leaves you with a stuffy nose. Your eyes may feel tender and swollen as well.
- Interstitial lung disease (sarcoidosis): The term interstitial lung disease describes a large group of respiratory diseases. What the conditions have in common is that they all cause lung problems such as scarring of the tissue. Because of the scarring, people with an interstitial lung disease makes it difficult to breathe and get enough oxygen into your bloodstream. Exposure to hazardous materials, including asbestos and World Trade Center dust, is one of the leading causes of these health problems.
- Lung cancer: With lung cancer, normal cells grow out of control and may develop into a tumor. Doctors refer to this health condition as lung cancer due to the original point of lung dysfunction. Cancer can also spread to nearby lymph nodes and other organs. Additionally, your oncologist may diagnose you with small cell lung cancer or non-small cell lung cancer depending on the location of the cells of your lungs where it originated.
- Mediastinal tumors: Also known as neoplasms, mediastinal tumors can affect the heart, lungs, and pleura. A neoplasm is an abnormal tissue growth. The mediastinum lies in the center of the chest and beneath the spinal column and breastbone. Although these types of tumors are rare, they can occur due to toxic dust exposure.
- Pulmonary fibrosis: This health condition causes stiffness and scarring in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. When your body repeatedly doesn’t take in enough oxygen, you may experience heart failure, respiratory failure, and other serious health complications. Exposure to toxic dust and other irritants is the leading cause of pulmonary fibrosis. It can produce a chronic hacking cough, wheezing, fatigue, weight loss, and other symptoms.
- Reactive airway disease (RAD): This condition has symptoms similar to asthma. Typically, people with this condition complain of coughing, wheezing, and sputum production not caused by asthma.
- Sleep apnea: People develop this common condition for a variety of reasons with obesity being a leading cause. With sleep apnea, your upper airways become blocked during sleep and stops or greatly restricts your airflow. If you have those symptoms, it means you have obstructive sleep apnea. With central sleep apnea, your brain doesn’t receive the proper signals it needs to ensure that you breathe correctly. You need to undergo a sleep study to receive a proper diagnosis of either obstructive or central sleep apnea.
- Tracheal diseases: You may not be familiar with the term trachea, but you are undoubtedly familiar with the term windpipe. This is the airway that extends from the larynx, which houses your voice box, to the airways in the lungs known as the left and right bronchi. The bronchi break down further into smaller patterns. The most common type of cancerous and non-cancerous tumors that grow in this area include tracheobronchomalacia, tracheal stenosis, and tracheal and bronchial areas.
- Unspecified sites of the intrathoracic organs and respiratory systems.
- Upper airway hyperactivity: People with this health problem have an exaggerated response to undefined stimuli. This results in obstruction of the airway that can make it difficult to breathe temporarily. However, doctors aren’t yet certain what causes this exaggerated response and the symptoms it produces.
Do you have one of these lung conditions caused by 9/11? If so, act now to secure our legal services and register for the WTC Health Program before the July 2021 deadline.
Contact Fuchsberg-Cannata Law Firms Today to Start Your Claim Process
If you’re a first responder, you took the job knowing you faced risk. However, no one could have ever imagined the magnitude of the disaster when the Twin Towers fell along with the incredible destruction across the entire New York City disaster area. It may be frustrating to feel like you served your country in one of its greatest hours of need and never received repayment for your enormous sacrifices. That is one reason the Victim Compensation Fund came together in the first place.
Knowing a resource is available and wading through the complexities to access it are two different things. Applying to the WTC Health Program and the Victim Compensation Fund can be intimidating, especially when you developed issues with lung function years ago and need to track down old documentation. We are here to help with every step of the process.
If you feel that you have qualifying lung conditions caused by 9/11 and you meet one of the four classifications described above, we invite you to call 888-WTC- victim today to get the process started. We serve first responders, survivors, and other qualified persons in NYC, Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, and surrounding areas in New York as well as clients in New Jersey. We look forward to putting our experience to work for you soon.
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Our experienced VCF lawyers provide aggressive, compassionate representation to those with illnesses from the events of 9/11
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