The Zadroga Reauthorization Act: Renewed Hope for 9/11 Terror Attack Victims
Sept. 11, 2001, is a day that is eternally etched in the minds and hearts of people who lived through those horrible events. Terrorists took to the skies with the intent to murder thousands of people that day, and they did; in all, 3,000 people died that day. Around 400 of those killed were first-responders from the New York Fire Department, New York Police Department, and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who ran into the buildings to help those who could not help themselves. An additional 10,000 people were injured. But the death toll did not stop there. A half-million people had been exposed to life-threatening diseases due to exposure to asbestos and other materials present in the World Trade Center’s towers. People who were covered with the dust at Ground Zero itself or lived, worked or went to school in the area were exposed to these lethal contaminants, and hundreds of people have since fallen ill and succumbed to diseases caused by the World Trade Center collapse and fallout.
Congress and President Barack Obama took action to provide medical care for people who were affected by the World Trade Center collapse. Signed into law on Jan. 2, 2011, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, commonly referred to as the Zadroga Act, gave aid and hope to those who suffered as a result of exposure to the carcinogens, toxins, heavy metals, and other materials scattered by the building collapse. Exposure to these substances caused asbestosis, cancers, digestive disorders, and other chronic or terminal diseases. Originally, this program was set to expire in 2015, but Congress decided that reauthorizing the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund was the best decision to make for victims and families. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act was passed in 2015 to extend benefits until 2090.
Parker Waichman LLP, a national law firm based in New York, is proud to assist clients and their families who have fallen ill because of exposure to toxins at Ground Zero. Our family and friends have also suffered from the fallout that blanketed lower Manhattan and even spread into Brooklyn. We experienced the tragedy firsthand, and we can empathize with the pain, suffering, and trepidation that victims may be experiencing. Contact our firm today and we can assist you in applying for the benefits you deserve under the Zadroga Act.
The Initial Zadroga Act
In 2010, Congress intended that the Zadroga Act should last for five years. The law created a health monitoring program for victims of 9/11 who were first-responders, people trapped inside of the World Trade Center buildings, and residents, workers, and students near the collapse. It also re-opened the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to compensate victims for financial losses and health care for illnesses related to or caused by the toxins in the dust cloud.
Unfortunately, Congress omitted several related medical conditions, as physicians, researchers, and scientists had not yet discovered all of the potential sicknesses that exposure to the dust cloud might cause. Even today, as the years go by, experts continue to link more illnesses to the fallout of 9/11.
The 2015 Zadroga Act Reauthorization
President Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act into law on Dec. 18, 2015. The bill authorized $8.1 billion for lifetime financial support and health care for first-responders, people who lived and worked within the zone of contamination, and those who survived the collapse of the Twin Towers. In addition, reauthorizing the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund extended these benefits for five more years, a deadline that would later be further extended.
Why Was 9/11 Dust Toxic?
Given the substances that scientists found in the dust from the crumbled buildings, it’s no surprise that so many people exposed to it have eventually gotten sick. Analysis of the dust and debris field revealed that harmful and potentially lethal substances like heavy metals (e.g., mercury and lead), disintegrated wood, paper, concrete, asbestos, steel, other construction materials, glass, silica, fiberglass, concrete, and jet fuel were sent into the air when the buildings collapsed. Furthermore, fires burned at Ground Zero for months, and this smoke was also harmful and potentially carcinogenic.
In July of 2017, researchers concluded that exposure to the dust at Ground Zero caused at least 90 diseases, 60 of them forms of cancer. Many first-responders, survivors, and others working, living, and attending school in the vicinity at the time have fallen ill or died from diseases connected to 9/11, and many more are likely to fall victim to similar illnesses as time goes on. That’s why the Zadroga Reauthorization Act was vitally important.
A Closer Look at the Zadroga Act Programs
It’s crucial to note that the WTC Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund are distinct entities. Enrollment in one program does not mean you have successfully enrolled in the other. If you think you qualify for either or both, then you must apply for them separately. Parker Waichman’s 9/11 attorneys are more than happy to assist you with preparing the appropriate forms and submitting the supporting documentation that the programs require.
The WTC Health Program
Title I of the original Zadroga Act established the World Trade Center Health Program, which was reauthorized along with the Zadroga. The WTC Health Program was designed to assist first-responders from the New York Fire Department and New York Police Department, EMS responders, people who were in the area of the disaster site, and those who worked at Ground Zero during the recovery and cleanup efforts. The WTC Health Program does not cover every illness or injury traceable to 9/11, but that’s likely to change as experts learn more about the effects of exposure to Ground Zero contaminants.
The WTC Health Program does not provide compensation for economic and non-economic losses. Instead, the WTC Health Program provides medical services to those who qualify. This organization can offer you or your loved one additional coverage and care for your 9/11-related illness and can ease the financial burden you or your family suffered and continues to suffer because of the lasting health effects of the 9/11 attacks.
The Victim Compensation Fund
The Victim Compensation Fund has a separate function than that the WTC Health Program. A person who suffered a covered injury due to the 9/11 attacks or the family of a deceased family member who suffered a covered injury may make a claim for compensation under the Victim Compensation Fund. People who were injured or sickened or the families of those who died on 9/11 or from a resulting disease may qualify for the compensation the fund offers. The fund ran initially from 2001 to 2004 but reopened with the passage of the Zadroga Act so that people who started to develop illnesses caused by exposure to the harmful vapors, toxins, and contaminants from the dust cloud could receive compensation.
What Does the 9/11 Compensation Fund Cover?
The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund was intended to cover the medical expenses and losses of those who were injured during the 9/11 attacks. As time went by, it became clear that many illnesses and injuries had long-lasting effects, and some illnesses took several years to manifest, so the fund was extended to continue to cover victims as the illnesses and injuries sustained have continued to take a toll on their health and their lives.
What Is the Never Forget the Heroes Act?
The Never Forget the Heroes Act was passed by Congress in 2019 to permanently authorize and fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. Claims can now be filed until October 2090, effectively covering everyone affected for the rest of their lives.
How Many 9/11 First-Responders Died?
In the attacks themselves, 412 NYC emergency workers lost their lives. But since that time, hundreds more have died from related illnesses, with that number only likely to rise in the years ahead.
Time Limitations on Applications for Zadroga Act Benefits
Each program has different rules governing how and when to apply for benefits. Under the Victim Compensation Fund, you must register before July 29, 2021, to preserve your right to file a claim. However, the WTC Health Program has no deadline: If you meet the eligibility requirements, you may apply at any time.
Why Should You Find an Experienced 9/11 Compensation Lawyer?
Applying for benefits under the Zadroga Act can be a daunting process, but the law allows victims to have representation of their choice to help them get approved for the help they need. They may even change representatives if they are displeased with their current counsel. Of course, the choice of counsel is very personal and very important, which is why you should take the time to find the right attorney who can help make the process of applying for 9/11 as painless as possible. At Parker Waichman, our Zadroga Reauthorization Act attorneys have assisted numerous clients in applying for these benefits or appealing their denial, and we would be glad to give you a free consultation to show you what we can do to help. Whether you are applying for WTC Health Program benefits, Victim Compensation Fund benefits or both, we will be happy to assist you. Rest assured that our focus will be on you, your recovery, and your family as you combat the health problems no one could have imagined would arise so long after that fateful day.
Why Choose Parker Waichman to Help With Your Zadroga Act Claim?
Our lawyers are dedicated to superior advocacy, and we are proud to have received numerous honors from the legal community and beyond, including a near-perfect score of 9.8 from AVVO. But the most important accolades we receive are the ones we get from our clients, including fellow New Yorkers who suffered ill effects due to the 9/11 attacks. Our attorneys promise to continue to fight hard on behalf of those who were exposed to Ground Zero’s toxic cloud and the psychological impacts of that horrifying day and its aftermath.
If you or someone you know was injured or died due to injuries suffered as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the attorneys at Parker Waichman can ensure that you get all of the compensation you deserve under the Zadroga Act. Call our law firm at 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) or fill out our client contact form online to get a free consultation with an experienced Zadroga Act attorney. We’ll walk with you every step of the way as we fight for your rights under the Zadroga Reauthorization Act.
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