9/11 World Trade Center First Responders

Robert A. Grochow
October 15, 2020

September 11, 2001, is a day that few Americans alive at the time will ever forget. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, as well as the plane crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, left the nation shocked and took the lives of 2,977 people. Sadly, that number would grow to include thousands more over the years as first responders, members of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), New York City firefighters (FDNY), and others who assisted with rescue, recovery, and debris removal at Ground Zero developed serious 9/11-related illnesses from toxic dust and fume exposure.

Perhaps you were one of the approximately 40,000 people who assisted at the Ground Zero site and now have a 9/11-related illness. Now that the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks has passed, you may wonder if you can still file a claim with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). This is especially true if your 9/11-related illness is recent, or your health condition did not qualify in the past.

The answer to the above question is yes, as long as you have a qualifying health condition and meet specific program criteria. Fortunately, you do not have to go through the process of registering for the World Trade Center Health Program and the VCF alone. Attorneys from the law firm of Gregory Cannata & Associates will walk you through each step from start to finish.

Located in New York City, Gregory Cannata & Associates has served people with 9/11-related illnesses since the federal government authorized payments to first responders and others with certain types of cancer and respiratory ailments in late 2001. The federal government named the fund’s authorization after James Zadroga, a New York City police officer who died of a respiratory illness in January 2006. Zadroga, just 34 years old, spent more than 450 hours in recovery efforts among toxic dust and fumes. He was the first known casualty among first responders. 

The initial Victim Compensation Fund expired in 2004 and was renewed in 2010 and 2015. In 2019, President Donald Trump signed permanent authorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Comedian Jon Stewart was one of several people who gave compelling testimony urging Trump to extend the fund. The VCF now has enough funds to operate through 2090.

Are you a first responder who assisted with recovery efforts after the terrorist attacks? You may be eligible for free health care and monitoring through the World Trade Center Health Program and financial compensation through the Victim Compensation Fund. We invite you to contact Gregory Cannata & Associates for a free consultation at 1-888-982-8428. Our law firm has worked with people suffering from 9/11-related illnesses continuously from 2004 to the present. You will not find a more experienced law firm in New York City that cares about and works hard for first responders with 9/11-related illnesses.

Common 9/11 First Responders Questions

We understand that you have a lot of questions about potential benefits available to you as a first responder at the Twin Towers or in other areas of Lower Manhattan. Below are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about the WTC Health Program and VCF.

Am I a WTC “First Responder” or a “Survivor”?

Administrators for both programs classify people with 9/11-related illnesses into specific groups, each with its own criteria for eligibility. A first responder is anyone who worked or volunteered at Ground Zero in the eight-month period from September 11, 2001, to May 30, 2002. The classification of first responder describes anyone at the former World Trade Center site acting in a professional capacity. This could include any of the following:

  • FDNY and other firefighters
  • Military
  • NYPD and other police officers
  • Employees from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City and morgue workers responsible for sorting and identifying human remains covered in dust
  • Staten Island landfill workers who sorted through thousands of pounds of debris from the terror attacks
  • Members of the media reporting from Ground Zero
  • Others who worked or volunteered with cleanup, debris removal, rescue, and recovery in Lower Manhattan

Please note that you need not have been in uniform to meet the criteria for first responder. The distinction is important because you receive different benefits as a first responder than survivors receive.

World Trade Center Health Program vs. VCF: Can I Qualify for One or Both?

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act authorized both the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. This can confuse people, mainly because it is possible to qualify for one and not the other. Below are brief descriptions of the differences in qualification criteria for the WTC Health Program and VCF.

  • First Responder or Survivor: People in both categories may qualify for the WTC Health Program or VCF, but they must meet different criteria to receive free healthcare and monitoring. First responders and survivors go through an identical claim process with VCF and receive the same amount of financial compensation. 
  • Geographic Boundaries: To qualify for the WTC Health Program, you must have been physically present below Houston Street or in an area of Western Brooklyn approximately 1.5 miles from the World Trade Center site. These geographic boundaries are broader and include survivors who lived, worked, or went to school in the designated area as well as first responders. Geographic criteria for the VCF include presence below Canal Street, on debris removal barges, at the Fresh Kill landfill, or any city morgues. 
  • Proof of Presence: Since different agencies operate each of these federal government programs, the criteria to prove you were in a specific place during a set time period are not the same. Common acceptable proof for the WTC Health Program include a paystub from your employer at the time, school transcript, or utility bill. Proof of presence to qualify for the VCF is stricter and can be more complex. By working with an experienced personal injury attorney from Gregory Cannata & Associates, you can avoid common mistakes that could cause a denial of your VCF claim.
  • Time of exposure: The two programs have somewhat different same time of exposure requirements. Depending upon when you were present and the nature of your exposure,, the time required can be for anywhere from a few hours to hundreds of hours. There are complex policy guidelines for which legal counsel should be sought. How Long Will It Take My Claim to Process?

The current average claim processing time is 18-24 months. The backlog is due to the increased number of VCF applications received in 2018 and 2019 before President Trump permanently reauthorized the program in July 2019. Program administrators typically process VCF claims in the order received.

We may be able to make a case for an expedited claim on your behalf if you are critically ill with a 9/11-related illness, have been evicted from your rental home, or have received a mortgage foreclosure notice. This is yet another benefit of working with a law firm experienced with the VCF claims process.

Taking You Through the WTC Health Program and Victim Compensation Fund Eligibility Process

When we meet for your free consultation, the first thing we do is determine if you meet the eligibility requirements for the World Trade Center Health Program and Victim Compensation Fund. If it appears that you will be eligible, we track down the proof you need to receive healthcare services or financial compensation. While this can be challenging after the passage of almost 20 years, your attorney will see to it that you have the documents you need to claim your rightful benefits. 

After verifying eligibility and locating your proof of presence, time of presence, geographic location, and the fact that you worked as a first responder, we complete each application with your input and then submit them to the World Trade Center Health Program and the VCF. We know from previous experience with other victims who developed cancer, respiratory diseases, or another eligible health condition after the terror attacks that completing the forms can be tedious and frustrating to attempt on your own.

Gregory Cannata & Associates has assisted more than 2000 individuals claim over $300 million dollars in compensation for 75 types of cancer, respiratory diseases, and other 9/11-related illnesses. You can depend on us to get the applications right the first time so you can receive maximum compensation. The VCF bases award amounts on a complex formula that we will further review during your free consultation.

To Answer All Your Questions, and Learn if You Qualify, Contact Us for a Free Consultation

The amount of information you need to apply to the WTC Health Program and VCF is often overwhelming. The law firm of Gregory Cannata & Associates is here to help you make sense of it all. Please call our office in New York City at 1-888-982-8428 to request your free consultation today. We will answer all your questions and then start the eligibility and application processes as soon as you indicate your desire to work with us. We have helped people from all over the United States and many other countries. 


Robert A. Grochow
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Robert Grochow has over 30 years of experience as a personal injury lawyer in New York, serving as co-counsel in over a thousand cases. He has also received recognition as one of New York’s “Most Honest Lawyers” from the National Law Journal/Washington Post.

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