World Trade Center Rescue Workers Sue WTC Captive Insurance Company for Long-overdue CompensationJul 17, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
World Trade Center first responders have yet to receive any money from a fund established to compensate them for injuries they received while aiding in rescue efforts, and now a group of the rescue workers are suing the plan’s administrator to get what they are due. WTC Captive Insurance Company has said in the past that the $1 billion set aside for sick emergency workers must first be used to litigate lawsuits before any of it goes to compensate workers. As a result, not one 9/11 fist responder has received any compensation from the fund nearly six years after the terrorist attacks.
In 2003, Congress ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to set aside $1 billion to compensate rescue workers for injuries and illnesses they sustained during 9/11 recovery efforts. Because so many of the workers were volunteers, they were not covered under traditional workers compensation policies. FEMA established WTC Captive Insurance Company to disburse the funds. The insurance fund has spent more than $75 million dollars to litigate worker lawsuits, and refuses to pay compensation to workers until all claims are settled. Attorneys for the World Trade Center workers say that Congress never intended for the fund to be used for this purpose.
Since the attacks, World Trade Center first responders have faced chronic health problems. Many have been unable to work, and were counting on compensation from the WTC Captive Insurance fund to help them financially. A study by the Mt. Sinai Medical Center found that of 9,000 emergency workers, 70-percent had suffered some type of lung ailment after the attacks, and that 60-percent still faced respiratory problems. Another report released by the FDNY in early May reported that cases of the rare lung disease sarcoidosis had risen dramatically among firefighters and EMS workers who had spent time at Ground Zero. And the worst may not be over. Many of the chemicals that rescue workers were exposed to, like asbestos and dioxin, are dangerous carcinogens. Public health authorities are already bracing for what might be the next wave of health problems related to the 9/11 tragedy - a surge in cancer and cancer-related deaths among rescue workers. Advocates for the workers estimate that the cost of caring for them could eventually reach $393 million each year, and have asked the federal government to set aside more funds for their treatment and monitoring.
Just last month, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Christine Todd Whitman appeared before congress to answer for her agency’s handling of the 9/11 aftermath. Shortly after the tragedy, the EPA issued a series of statements assuring the public and the World Trade Center workers that the air around Ground Zero was safe to breathe. As a result, many rescue workers spent weeks sifting through the debris with little protective gear. At the hearing, Whitman defended these statements, saying that she was trying “to get the city back on its feet as quickly as possible”.