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FL Votes on Tax Exemption for Disabled First Responders

Feb 15, 2017

Disabled Florida First Responders, including 9/11 Responders, Get Tax Break

FL Votes on Tax Exemption for Disabled First Responders

Florida has approved tax exemptions for permanently disabled first responders who became disabled in the line of duty. Previously, these tax exemptions were only available to surviving spouses of first responders or military members who died in the line of duty. The tax break also applies to 9/11 responders who became disabled while helping with the rescue and recovery efforts.

Parker Waichman LLP is a national personal injury law firm that has fought for the rights of 9/11 responders and survivors since the beginning. The firm continues to advocate for 9/11 heroes.

The Nov. 8, 2016 ballot contained the Florida Tax Exemptions for Disabled First Responders Amendment, also known as Amendment 3. It was classified as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment. Florida voted 'yes' on Amendment 3 with 7,495,226 votes, or 83.78 percent. The ballot title was "Tax Exemption for Totally and Permanently Disabled First Responders."

The ballot summary read, "Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize a first responder, who is totally and permanently disabled as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty, to receive relief from ad valorem taxes assessed on homestead property, if authorized by general law. If approved by voters, the amendment takes effect January 1, 2017."

Following the approval, Section 6(f) of Article VII has been amended to include tax breaks for "A first responder who is totally and permanently disabled as a result of an injury or injuries sustained in the line of duty. Causal connection between a disability and service in the line of duty shall not be presumed but must be determined as provided by general law. For purposes of this paragraph, the term 'disability' does not include a chronic condition or chronic disease, unless the injury sustained in the line of duty was the sole cause of the chronic condition or chronic disease."

Advocates in support of Amendment 3 argued that the tax break is an important way for Florida citizens to recognize and honor the sacrifice made by disabled first responders. It is argued that, since these individuals are now permanently disabled because of their service, the state should repay them through tax exemption.

Injured and Sick 9/11 Responders Can Receive Zadroga Benefits

Injured and Sick 9/11 Responders Can Receive Zadroga Benefits

Parker Waichman comments that 9/11 first responders across the country who become injured or sick due to their rescue and recovery efforts can receive benefits through the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, which provides medical treatment and monitoring, and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which provides compensation. These two programs are funded through the Zadroga Act, which was first signed into law in 2011 and renewed in late 2015.

The firm proudly stood alongside first responders, survivors, lawmakers and other 9/11 advocates to ensure the passage of the Zadroga Act, as well as its amendments and reauthorization. Our attorneys remain committed to fighting for the rights of 9/11 responders and survivors.

Renewing the Zadroga Act essentially made the WTC Health Program permanent for 9/11 responders and survivors. Roughly 75,000 people around the nation receive medical treatment and monitoring through the program. Reauthorization provided an additional $3.5 billion to extend the program an additional 75 years, until 2090.

Responders and residents near the twin towers on 9/11 were exposed to a cloud of toxic dust following the terrorist attacks. Experts now know that the dust contained many hazardous substances, including as asbestos; pulverized cement; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); benzene; dioxin; glass fibers; gypsum; jet fuel; heavy metals, including lead and other chemicals. WTC-exposure has been tied to many health conditions, including over 60 types of cancer.

Some 9/11-related health problems have taken years to manifest. Sadly, it appears that, as time goes on, more people have developed health problems associated with toxic dust exposure. The WTC Health Program received an additional 2,500 new enrollees during the one-year period ending June 30, 2016, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people enrolled in the program were rescue and recovery workers. These individuals tend to have the greatest exposure, since they worked on the smoldering remains of the towers ("the pile") in the months following the attacks.

Higher Rate of Health Problems in 9/11 Responders

In the years following the attacks, researchers have continued to find higher rates of certain medical conditions among people who were exposed to the toxic dust cloud. A January 2017 review published in the journal Current Allergy and Asthma Reports found that WTC-exposure is associated with airway disease. The review assessed studies published since 2011, and found that degree of exposure is linked to severity of symptoms.

In addition to respiratory conditions, WTC-exposure is linked to mental health problems as well. This includes a higher rate of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. In August 2016, a study published in Alzheimer's and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment and Disease Monitoring found that WTC-exposed responders had a greater risk of cognitive impairment. This includes problems with memory and thinking skills. The findings were particularly interesting because the participants were young to be exhibiting signs of cognitive impairment.

Recent research also suggests that first responders and survivors exposed to the toxic dust cloud have higher rates of nerve-related issues, including neuropathy and paresthesias. Researchers published a study linking WTC exposure to neuropathy in 2016. The findings were published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Authors of the study noted that neuropathy is not covered by the Zadroga Act, and should be added to the list of eligible conditions.

Legal Help for 9/11 Responders and Survivors

Parker Waichman is proud to have fought alongside Ground Zero residents, workers, first responders, and other survivors and advocates, to help ensure passage of Zadroga Act amendments. The firm vows to continue its efforts to safeguard all those who were exposed to Ground Zero's toxic cloud and the trauma of the attacks, and ensure that all the deserved Zadroga Act compensation is received. To determine eligibility for compensation under the Act, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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