WTC Health Program Covered Conditions and Application Assistance
If you were in the New York Disaster Area on Sept. 11, 2001, worked at Ground Zero, were in the Disaster Area after the attacks or responded to the Pentagon or the crash site outside of Shanksville, PA, you may have experienced a variety of negative health effects. If you have one of the WTC Health Program covered conditions, we can help you to apply for this program and get help with the health care you need. Our World Trade Center Health Program attorneys have represented numerous clients who needed help applying for benefits, and we would be glad to assist you with your application if you have any of the illnesses or health conditions on the list of WTC diseases.
9/11 Toll Continues to Grow
The 9/11 terrorist attacks continue to take their toll years later. Hundreds of people are diagnosed with diseases caused by 9/11 every year because of the contaminants that were scattered into the air when the Twin Towers fell. Others suffer from diseases they contracted while working at Ground Zero and the surrounding area performing rescue, recovery, and cleanup duties. The physical, emotional, and mental toll caused by the terror attacks also continues to mount. The fallout from that fateful day continues to rear its ugly head as people get sick and die from exposure to the toxins spread across lower Manhattan and 1.5 miles southeast into Brooklyn.
Even to this day, members of the FDNY continue to lose their lives to 9/11. Casualties have included Daniel Foley, who spent 11 days searching for his brother’s body in the rubble at Ground Zero and months more digging for the remains of other people’s loved ones; he died in February 2020 of pancreatic cancer. Stories like Foley’s are all too common, as brave heroes who didn’t think twice about rushing into danger now pay the price with their health and their lives.
As a consequence of so many people getting sick and needing help because of the 9/11 fallout, Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. A main component of the Zadroga Act is the World Trade Center Health Program. The Zadroga Act also reinstituted the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). A 2015 reauthorization extended the health program until 2090, by which point all of the ailments associated with World Trade Center fallout should have run their course.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) run the health program, and currently, there are nearly 100 diseases, mental illnesses, and cancers covered by the Zadroga Act. The CDC continues to add more health problems to the list as more conditions are linked to 9/11. For instance, as children who were just babies or were born shortly after 9/11 mature into adulthood, it remains to be seen whether they harbor any health problems the CDC has not yet had the opportunity to identify that they could pass on to their children.
Who Is Eligible for the Program?
Determining eligibility is a two-step process. The first step seeks to identify who was in the geographical area of the fallout from Ground Zero due to their work, school or living situation. The second step considers the applicant’s health problems and whether they are on the list of WTC diseases stemming from the toxic cloud dispersed on Sept. 11, 2001, and the exposure to those toxins during the rescue, recovery, and cleanup operations at Ground Zero. Estimates suggest that somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 people worked in the area of Ground Zero, and tens of thousands more people lived, worked or went to school in the area smothered by the dust cloud.
Although most of the Zadroga Act focuses on New York City, those brave first-responders, military personnel, civilian workers, and police who responded to the attack at the Pentagon and those who rushed to the crash site in Shanksville, PA, are not forgotten. They, too, may qualify for benefits if they have Zadroga Act-covered conditions.
Specific work-related duties or geographic proximity to the World Trade Center determine who is eligible for program benefits. The CDC designated an area it calls the New York City Disaster Area, which encompasses all of lower Manhattan, east to west, from Houston Street south to the Battery. The Disaster Area runs southeasterly across the East River 1.5 miles into Brooklyn. The Disaster Area also includes a portion of any residential block that touches the 1.5 mile-wide swath.
Keep in mind that the VCF defines the disaster area differently than the CDC. This program only includes lower Manhattan, from Canal Street south, and does not include any of Brooklyn. The VCF provides financial compensation for people who suffered injuries or illnesses caused by the 9/11 attacks. The WTC Health Program, on the other hand, does not give its members financial compensation. Instead, the health program provides free health care, screening, and monitoring to those affected by the 9/11 attacks.
Classes of Applicants
The WTC Health Program breaks down eligible participants into four classes: Fire Department of New York responders, general responders, Pentagon and Shanksville, PA, responders, and NYC survivors.
Fire Department of New York (FDNY) Responder
A member of the FDNY, whether active or retired, or a surviving member of their family may participate in the program if the responder worked for one day in the rescue and recovery mission at Ground Zero from Sept. 11, 2001, to July 31, 2002.
The program defines a general responder as a member of any other responding service, including the New York City Police Department and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, or the Office of the New York City Medical Examiner. The definition also includes any other worker or volunteer who participated in the rescue, recovery or cleanup efforts from Sept. 11, 2001, to July 31, 2002. Eligible workers and volunteers who worked at Ground Zero, the Staten Island landfill, lower Manhattan (south of Canal Street), the PATH tunnels, barge loading piers or the office of the medical examiner or who performed support services for any of those groups are eligible to participate. Non-emergency responders are eligible if they served for four days between Sept. 11, 2001, and Jan. 10, 2002, or 30 days between Sept. 11, 2001, and May 31, 2002.
Pentagon and Shanksville, PA
Any member of the fire services, police or emergency medical services, active or retired, who worked on the rescue, recovery, cleanup, demolition or related services for one day at the Pentagon from Sept. 11, 2001, to Nov. 19, 2001, or Shanksville, PA from Sept. 11, 2001, to Oct. 3, 2001, is eligible.
A New York City survivor is anyone who was trapped in the dust cloud or was covered by dust on Sept. 11, 2001. This group also includes anyone who lived, worked, went to school or attended day care between Sept. 11, 2001, and May 31, 2002, within the disaster area.
It’s important to note that the program requires documentation to verify your claim as an eligible participant. You must include information about your job or residence with your application. You may explain any reasons for not having the appropriate documentation on your application if necessary.
Getting Coverage for Health Conditions Under the WTC Health Program
Upon applying for benefits under the World Trade Center Health Program, an applicant will receive a thorough examination. The initial assessment includes discussion of the applicant’s medical history, X-rays, EKG, blood tests, vital signs, blood pressure, breathing tests, and a 9/11 risk assessment. Responders will then receive annual exams, even if the member is not sick. Survivors will undergo the initial evaluation, and the examining physician will classify them as eligible if they have an illness linked to 9/11. The certified-eligible survivor will then have annual screening exams to monitor their health. Both responders and survivors are eligible for cancer screenings if they satisfy the program requirements.
Only a physician working within the network of program providers can certify a health condition as qualifying for benefits. A certified health condition means that your condition is on the list of recognized ailments and the doctor determines that exposure to the fallout on or after Sept. 11, 2001, played a significant role in or likely caused, aggravated or contributed to your health problem.
What Illnesses Are Covered Under the Zadroga Act? The List of WTC Diseases
The current list of health conditions covered by the World Trade Center Health Program numbers around 100, including 60 types of cancer and cancer-related illnesses. They include:
Non-Cancer Health Conditions
Acute Traumatic Injuries
This category contains conditions such as head injuries; broken bones; torn or damaged muscles, tendons or ligaments; severe burns; or other traumatic injuries, such as amputations.
These medical problems affect the mouth, nose, throat, lungs, stomach, and intestines, such as:
- Upper respiratory diseases like chronic cough (sometimes known as “WTC cough”), laryngitis, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), and other related health problems
- Obstructive airway disorders like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), sleep apnea from GERD or another digestive problem, and other airway diseases
- Interstitial lung diseases like pulmonary fibrosis, scarring of the lungs, and associated difficulties
Mental Health Conditions
Covered mental health conditions include any disorder that affects the applicant’s mood, thinking, reasoning or emotions, such as adjustment disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance misuse or any other related problem.
The program also covers many bone and muscular problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and lower back pain. The program mandates that these injuries must have occurred while performing repetitive tasks during the rescue, recovery, and cleanup efforts at the World Trade Center.
The CDC’s list of WTC diseases includes all childhood cancers, defined as any cancer that affects a person age 20 or younger.
Other covered cancers include:
- Malignant neoplasms
- Blood and lymph cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and myeloma
- Digestive system
- Eye and orbit
- Female breast
- Female reproductive organs
- Head and neck
- Respiratory system, including lung cancer
- Skin (melanoma and non-melanoma)
- Soft tissue
- Urinary system
The program also covers rare cancers. The CDC has certified several rare cancers as linked to 9/11 and will continue to add more to the list of certified cancers if the need arises. Some of the rare cancers currently certified are:
- Adrenal glands
- Male genitalia
- Female genitalia
Time Limitations on Applications for Zadroga Act Benefits
If you qualify for benefits under the Zadroga Act, it’s a good idea to apply as soon as you can. If this seems daunting, don’t worry. The health program allows you to have a representative work on your claim for you, and at Parker Waichman, we have a lot of experience with these applications. Our 9/11 WTC Health Program attorneys have had tremendous success securing benefits for our clients, including in cases where their initial application was denied.
Frequently Asked Questions About 9/11 and the Zadroga Act
How Did James Zadroga Die?
James Zadroga was an NYPD officer who died of respiratory disease tied to his response to the attack site at Ground Zero and the materials he was exposed to. His death was the first attributed to exposure to the materials found at Ground Zero; foreign materials were found in his lungs during an autopsy, including cellulose and plastic.
Who Were the 9/11 First-Responders?
The 9/11 first-responders were emergency workers including firefighters, police officers, and medical technicians. Unfortunately, many of these same responders lost their lives in an attempt to save others.
How Long Did it Take for the Dust to Settle After 9/11?
It took days for the dust in lower Manhattan to settle, but it was easily resuspended in the air as responders worked to clean up the WTC site over the next nine months. In addition, it took more than three months to completely put out the fires at Ground Zero, which spewed clouds of smoke whenever a new pocket of smoldering debris was exposed to the air. Most of the WTC Health Program covered conditions were caused by the particles from the dust cloud.
How Many First-Responders Have Died Since 9/11?
More than 200 firefighters and nearly 250 NYPD officers have lost their lives to illnesses contracted as a result of working at the World Trade Center site so far, and that number is likely to grow. Thousands have experienced health problems after working at Ground Zero, including respiratory disorders and cancer. So many people were exposed to contaminants from the collapsed buildings and have subsequently fallen ill that the death toll from the 9/11 attacks could exceed 10,000 when all is said and done.
How Much Money Did 9/11 Victims’ Families Get?
More than $7 billion was distributed to the families of 9/11 victims. On average, each family received about $2 million from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Funds have also been distributed to those injured in the attacks.
What Does the 9/11 Compensation Fund Cover?
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was created to compensate the families of those who died in the attacks, as well as those who survived but whose health was compromised. People with certified health conditions can get compensation for economic and non-economic losses due to their 9/11-related injuries, including medical expenses and lost wages.
Work With an Experienced 9/11 Compensation Lawyer and Get Help With Your Claim
At Parker Waichman, our New York-based attorneys work tirelessly to help those who are still suffering from the health effects of a day that changed all of our lives. We are proud to assist those who are dealing with chronic and debilitating diseases due to the 9/11 attacks in any way we can, including helping them to get compensation that can make their lives a little bit easier through the World Trade Center Health Program.
Our lawyers are dedicated to superior advocacy, and we are proud to have received numerous honors from the legal community, including an “AV Preeminent” rating from Martindale-Hubbell and a 9.8 (out of a perfect 10) rating from AVVO. But the most important thing to us is our glowing reviews from people like you, people we have helped through a difficult time by fighting for their legal rights.
Let us take on the burden of applying and fighting for health coverage, so you can focus on your health. Call Parker Waichman today at 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) or fill out our client contact form for a free consultation. Our World Trade Center Health Program attorneys promise to aggressively pursue your claim and protect your rights.