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9/11 Compensation Deadline Looms
By Teresa Cajot


While most of us were counting down the days to the New Year, an estimated 1,600 individuals whose health was impacted by the 9/11
terrorist attacks were more focused on the second day of January. Those who filed lawsuits claiming that the dust and smoke from the
World Trade Center collapse damaged their health have been given until January 2, 2012 to decide whether to pursue the matter in
court or drop their respective lawsuits and apply for benefits under the federal Victim Compensation Fund.




The decision for most, however, is not an easy one to make.           that additional diseases will begin to become apparent in
While first responders and others blame the disaster zone             the first responder population in the years to come. “I’m not
for a broad range of illnesses, the health issues covered by          surprised that cancer is turning up in responders because the
the compensation fund are limited only to conditions that             disease takes many years to develop.” She further notes that
scientists have already linked to the toxins found at the             it is likely that there will be higher rates of cancer at younger
disaster zone. That means that although asthma and other              ages among first responders in comparison to the general
respiratory problems have already been added to the list              population.
of covered illnesses, cancer and other conditions remain
uncovered, at least for the time being.                               Regardless of whether cancer is covered in the future or not,
                                                                      most applicants won’t see any money until 2016, by which
Last year, federal lawmakers allotted $2.76 billion in aid for        time all claims should be submitted and processed. With each
those who experienced health issues as a result of time spent         passing day, more New Yorkers are facing illnesses stemming
at Ground Zero. However, in order to be eligible for aid from         from the toxins of 9/11 and it is unknown how many will
the fund, applicants must drop any pending lawsuits by the            decide to sue or apply for aid through the government
second day of January or forever give up their chance to              program. It’s entirely possible that the $2.76 billion set aside
participate in the government-sponsored program.                      could be used up rather quickly, especially if individuals with
                                                                      common illnesses that may not have originated from the
While the program does not require the sick to prove that             attacks decide to file for aid. “The real question is how many
their health problems are directly related to the September           more cases are out there?” says Noah Kushlefsky, an attorney
11, 2001 attacks, there is no guaranteed that applicants will         with Kreindler & Kreindler.
receive coverage if their particular illness has not been placed
on the eligibility list. However, some plaintiffs have already        Sheila Birnbaum, the Special Master of the September 11
chosen to dismiss their lawsuits in the hopes that cancer will        Victims Compensation Fund expects thousand to apply but
one day be added to the list of covered illnesses.                    cannot give an estimate on how many might apply between
                                                                      now and when the fund closes years down the line. Ultimately,
“In a sense, I’ve weighed my options and rolled the dice              the amount paid out to each victim will depend on how many
believing that the country I helped is not going to let me            qualify for the fund and whether cancers are added to the list.
down,” said John Walcott, a former New York City police
detective who dropped his case shortly before Christmas.              Those who settled their cases before the compensation fund
Walcott, 47, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia            was established in 2010, are eligible to apply to government
in 2003.                                                              benefits but will have their award amount reduced by the
                                                                      amount of their legal settlement.
Dr. Jacqueline Moline, the co-director of the Queens World
Trade Center Clinical Center of Excellence in Flushing, which is
one of five centers funded through the Zadroga Act, believes




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