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Parker Waichman LLP Discusses the Health Conditions Covered by the World Trade Center Health Program

Parker Waichman LLP Has Represented Numerous Victims from 9/11 Obtain the Healthcare Benefits Offered by the World Trade Center Health Program.

Parker Waichman LLP’s World Trade Center Health Program attorneys offer their expertise on how to successfully apply for benefits. We have represented numerous clients who needed help applying to the World Trade Center Health Program (“the Program”). We are available to assist you with your application for any of the illnesses and health conditions the Program currently covers and will appeal any adverse decisions on your behalf. If you were in the New York Disaster Area on September 11, 2001, worked at Ground Zero, lived, attended school, or worked in the Disaster Area, or responded to the Pentagon, or the field outside of Shanksville, PA.

We, as a nation, knew that our lives would never be the same when we learned that a jet airliner slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001. By sheer happenstance, a videographer captured the haunting image of Flight 11, having recently departed from Boston’s Logan airport, slam into the North Tower around the 94th floor. By the time United Flight 175 hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m., which live television captured to the horror of millions watching, we knew the country was under attack.

Shortly after the plane struck the South Tower, information was coming out of Washington, D.C. that a plane flew into the Pentagon. A stunned and shocked nation soon learned that Flight 93 crashed into a field in Shanksville, PA. We would never know where the hijackers intended on delivering their human payload. The flight path appeared to head toward Washington, D.C., suggesting that the U.S. Capitol or the White House were the most likely targets.

Then, the inconceivable occurred. At 10:05 a.m., the South Tower collapsed. The top of the building above where the plane struck twisted and began to topple. The building then collapsed into itself, and the great structure that took years to build was reduced to rubble in a matter of seconds. At 10:28 a.m., the North Tower fell. The collapsing buildings showered the immediate area with debris filled with glass, concrete, fiberglass, wood, steel, asbestos, soot from the infernos, and other contaminants.

The failing Towers hurled a mass of destruction toward lower Manhattan. The mere act of falling created a mighty wind that blew the dust cloud away from Ground Zero and scattered the dust over so vast an of distance that the entire section of lower Manhattan was covered. The dust and debris flew as far as 1.5 miles away into Brooklyn.

First responders from the New York City Fire Department, Police Department, Port Authority, and Emergency Services, saturated the area of the collapse, which later became known as Ground Zero. So many people were already lost to the wicked deeds of a deranged few. Notwithstanding, these heroes streamed toward Ground Zero to help save the living and reclaim the dead. Workers from the New York City Medical Examiner’s office would stand vigil as they would await the grim task of solemnly and respectfully removing the deceased from Ground Zero.

Construction crews soon followed and established a worksite. The fires continued to burn on the pile while the ironworkers, masons, and laborers of all kinds would put aside their daily responsibilities and join the effort to clear the devastation from Ground Zero as well as begin to clean the streets blanketed with the dust and remnants of the North and South Towers. Workers toiled around the clock to remove the debris and clear a foundation for a new building, which would later be dubbed the “Freedom Tower.” Workers removed the last iron beam on May 30, 2002. An emotional ceremony marked the removal of the last piece of the South Tower as it wound its way to Staten Island toward the landfill designated for its final resting place.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 continue to take their toll nearly 17 years later. Hundreds of people take sick every year because of the contaminants that were scattered into the air when the buildings 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 continue 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. A decorated lieutenant, who was recognized for his bravery for his actions of September 11, 2001, and two other firefighters lost their brave battle with cancer during the last week of January 2017.

As a consequence of so many people getting sick and needing help because of the 9/11 fallout, the United States Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. The state of New York implemented a similar program before the Congress passed its bill. A component of the Zadroga Act is the World Trade Center Health Program. The Zadroga Act also reinstituted the 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund.

Congress intended the law to exist for only five years. Therefore, the law included what is called a “sunset” provision. A sunset provision means that the law expires on the date included in the bill. As a result, Congress passed the Zadroga Reauthorization Act of 2015 as part of a larger spending bill. President Barack H. Obama signed the bill into law on December 8, 2015.

The Zadroga Reauthorization Act breathed life into a service that many people need or will need in the future. Congress will fund the Program until 2090. By that point, all of the diseases associated with World Trade Center fallout should have run their course.

The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) run the Program. Currently, there are nearly 100 diseases, health conditions, and mental illnesses the Program certified as related to 9/11. That number might expand. The CDC continues to add more health problems to the list as more health conditions arise. It is likely that many more adverse health conditions will be added. For example, the registry does not include congenital disabilities. However, as children who were just babies or were born shortly after 9/11 begin to mature into adulthood, it remains to be seen whether they harbor a health problem the CDC has not had the opportunity to identify that the children of 9/11 could pass onto their children.

Some of the diseases have a long latency period. A latency period is the time it takes for an illness to manifest itself as a disease.

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 whether through work, school, or living situation. The second stage considers the applicant’s health problems and whether they are recognized them as health conditions certified as stemming from the toxic cloud dispersed on September 11, 2001, and the exposure to those toxins during the rescue, recovery, and cleanup operations from Ground Zero. Estimates suggest that somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 people worked in the area of Ground Zero. Tens of thousands more people lived, worked, or went to school in the area smothered by the dust cloud.

Although most of the law 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 is not forgotten. They too may qualify for benefits under the Program.

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. The Disaster area encompasses all of lower Manhattan, east to west, from Houston Street southerly to the Battery. The Disaster Area runs southeasterly across the East River 1.5 miles into Brooklyn. The Disaster Area also included a portion of any residential block that touches the 1.5 mile-wide swath.

The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund defines the disaster area differently than the CDC. The disaster area, or exposure area, according to the administrator of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund exclusively includes lower Manhattan, that is from Canal Street south, but does not include any of Brooklyn.

The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund provides different services for 9/11 victims. The Fund, which received additional funding as part of the Zadroga Reauthorization Act, provides financial compensation for people who suffered injuries or illness caused by the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. The WTC Health Program, on the other hand, does not give its members financial compensation. Instead, the Health Program provides free healthcare, screening, and monitoring to those affected by the 9/11 terror attacks.

Classes of Applicants

The Health Program breaks down eligible participants into four classes. Those classes are Fire Department of New York Responders, General Responders, Pentagon and Shanksville, PA Responders, and Survivors. The Program thoroughly defines each class of participant. The proper class designation is important because class designation determines the benefits in which a Program enrollee can participate. The class designation also allows the Program’s healthcare professionals to suit the members needs more appropriately.

  1. Fire Department of New York (FDNY) Responder. A member of the FDNY or Emergency Medical Services, whether active or retired or a 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 September 11, 2001, to July 31, 2002.
  2. General Responder. The Program defines a General Responder as a member of any other service including the New York City Police Department, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, or members of 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 September 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 September 11, 2001, until January 10, 2002, or thirty days (30) from September 11, 2001, to May 31, 2002.
  3. Pentagon and Shanksville, PA Any member of the fire services, police, emergency medical services, active or retired, who worked on the rescue, recovery, cleanup, demolition, or related services for one day at the Pentagon from September 11, 2001, to November 19, 2001, or Shanksville, PA from September 11, 2001, to October 3, 2001, is eligible.
  4. The Program defines a Survivor as anyone who was trapped by the dust cloud or was covered by dust on September 11, 2001. The Program also establishes a Survivor as anyone who lived, worked, went to school, or attended daycare on September 11, 2001, until May 31, 2002, within the Disaster area.

It is 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.

Health Conditions Covered by the Health Program

The current list of healthcare conditions covered by the Program is about 100. Sixty out of those 100 healthcare conditions are cancer or cancer-related. More conditions will be added as doctors treat other diseases not referenced but may be connected with the 9/11 fallout.

An applicant will receive a thorough examination upon applying to the Program. The initial assessment includes discussion of the applicant’s medical history, X-rays, EKG, blood tests, vital signs, blood pressure, physical exam, breathing tests, and a 9/11 risk assessment. Responders receive annual exams even if the member is not sick. Survivors will undergo the initial evaluation. The examining physician will classify the Survivor as a Certified-Eligible Survivor if that person has an illness linked to 9/11. The Certified-Eligible Survivor will have annual screening exams to monitor their health. Both Responders and Survivors are eligible for cancer screening 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 September 11, 2001, playing a significant role in or likely caused, aggravated, or contributed to your health problem.

The list of covered conditions is extensive and include non-cancerous diseases as well as numerous cancers and the complications that arise from the problems.

Non-Cancer Health Conditions

  1. Acute Traumatic Injuries. This category contains injuries such as head injuries, broken bones, torn or damaged muscles, tendons, or ligaments, severe burns or other traumatic injuries like an amputation.
  2. Aerodigestive Disorders. These medical problems affect the mouth, nose, throat, lungs, stomach, and intestines.
    1. Upper respiratory diseases include cough (sometimes known as the WTC cough), laryngitis, swelling and runny nose, Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), and other related health problems.
    2. Obstructive Airway Disorders like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), sleep apnea from GERD or other digestive problem, and other airway diseases.
    3. Interstitial Lung Diseases like Pulmonary Fibrosis and scarring of the lungs and associated difficulties.
  3. Mental Health Conditions are any disorder that affects the applicant’s mood, thinking, reasoning, or emotions. Covered mental health problems include adjustment disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, panic disorders, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), stress disorder, substance misuse, or any other related mental health problem. PTSD, while covered by the Health Program, is not currently compensable by the Victim’s Compensation Fund.
  4. Musculoskeletal Complications that the Program covers includes many bones or 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 of the World Trade Center.

Cancers

The following list may be located at https://www.cdc.gov/wtc/conditions.html.

The Program will cover all childhood cancers. The Program defines childhood cancers as any cancer that affected a person 20-years-of-age or younger.

Other cancers include:

  • Malignant Neoplasms
  • Blood and Lymphoid including leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and myeloma
  • Digestive System
  • Colon
  • Eye and Orbit
  • Female Breast
  • Female Reproductive Organs
  • Head and Neck
  • Respiratory System including lung cancer and heart cancer.
  • Skin (Melanoma and non-Melanoma)
  • Soft Tissue
  • Thyroid
  • Urinary System
  • Mesothelioma

The Program additionally covers rare cancers. The CDC defines rare cancers as those occurring only affecting 15 people out of every 100,000. 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:

  • Bone
  • Adrenal glands
  • Pancreas
  • Male genitalia
  • Female genitalia
  • Brain cancer
  • Gallbladder

Time Limitations on Applications for Zadroga Act Benefits

You should apply as soon as you can for Program benefits. Fortunately, the Program allows for you to have a representative work with on, or in our case, for you to get your claim filed and pursue an appeal if necessary. Our 9/11 WTC Health Program attorneys have had tremendous success securing benefits for people who were denied previously by the Program.

A Parker Waichman 9/11 Compensation Lawyer Can Help You With Your Claim

The World Trade Center Health Program lawyers with Parker Waichman LLP have significant ties to New York. They have suffered along with you. That is why they work tirelessly to obtain the benefits from the World Trade Center Health Program that you deserve. They know their work is not done. So many people were exposed to contaminants from the collapsed buildings and subsequently fallen ill that the death toll from the 9/11 terror attacks could exceed 10,000 with thousands more suffering from chronic and debilitating diseases.

Why Choose Parker Waichman LLP for Your Case?

Our lawyers are dedicated to superior advocacy, and we are proud to have received honors from the legal community and beyond, including:

  • 9.8 (out of a perfect 10) rating by AVVO.com.
  • Martindale-Hubbell “Preeminent Lawyers” AV Peer Review Rating.
  • Lawdragon’s Highest Ranking of “5 Dragons.”
  • A listing in the Best Lawyers

You have the right to choose the legal representative you desire. You can also change lawyers as long as you inform the Program that you changed your representative. You should feel comfortable with your representation. We at Parker Waichman want to take the burden of applying and fighting for healthcare coverage off of you and your family so you can focus on your health.

Call Parker Waichman LLP Today to Start the Claims Process

Call Parker Waichman LLP today at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) or fill out our client contact form so we can help you immediately apply for the benefits to which you could be entitled. Our World Trade Center Health Program Attorneys promise to aggressively pursue your claim and protect your rights. You deserve to live free from worry about who will pay for your 9/11-related medical problem.

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