Survivor Skills

A Town Hall meeting to answer questions and provide information about medical care and financial compensation available to Lower Manhattan residents who lived through the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath will be held on Monday (October 15) at the Municipal Building (One Centre Street, near the corner of Chambers Street).

This free, public event is being presented by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and U.S. Congressman Jerry Nadler, in conjunction with the World Trade Center Health Program, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), and 9/11 Environmental Action (9/11EA), a non-profit advocacy group whose mission is to ensure that those who were affected physically or emotionally by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, get the specialized health care they need, and to which they are legally entitled.

Kimberly Flynn, of 9/11 Environmental Action: “What’s so important now is for residents and others to learn about the process for the World Trade Center Health Program and the Victim Compensation Fund_ and especially to complete their compensation claims by a hard deadline of December 18, 2020.”
“The World Trade Center Health Program is one of the benefit programs created by the James Zadroga Act,” explains Kimberly Flynn, the director 9/11EA, who notes that “‘survivors’ is Zadroga language for residents, students, and area workers, whose health was affected by 9/11.” She adds that, “there is tremendous confusion in this community about the difference between the World Trade Center Health Program, the World Trade Center Health Registry, and the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund.” (This confusion can be largely resolved by browsing the organization’s website: 911ea.org)
Monday’s forum (for which admission is free) will invite participants to hear what medical researchers have learned so far about 9/11 health effects, get advice about maintaining good health, and (perhaps most importantly) pose questions directly to medical professionals on the front lines of these issues.

Downtowners fleeing the cloud of dust from the towers’ collapse

Monday’s event will feature a presentation by Dr. Joan Reibman(medical director of the Survivor’s Program of World Trade Center Health Program), who, as part of a team from New York University School of Medicine, spent months after the attacks, “going from door to door, building to building,” speaking to residents. Seventeen years later, she says, these “survivors” are, “often being forgotten in terms of their World Trade exposures. Or they often felt like they were not the heroes — the first responders were the heroes — and therefore not deserving of care.”

Also available for questions will be Rupa Bhattacharyya, the new Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, who notes that, “in addition to providing critical relief from financial hardship that results from September 11th injuries and deaths, the Fund compensates victims — at least to some degree — for their pain and suffering, and can provide some peace of mind, though sadly, for many who fear leaving their families in need.”

Both Dr. Joan Reibman and Mr. Bhattacharyya will focus on what each program offers, who is eligible, and how the two programs are now linked. “To file a VCF claim for compensation, one must first enroll in the WTC Health Program so that physical illnesses associated with 9/11 can be ‘certified.’ This certification is the medical documentation that supports one’s claim.”

Dan Hansen, of Turley, Hansen & Rosasco: “Although the criteria are very intricate, for the most part, if you have one of the dozens of cancers on the list and you were in the exposure zone on day of the attacks or in the months that followed, you get a presumption that it was caused by 9/11.”

One theme of Monday’s discussion will be that many survivors are still eligible to apply for health care benefits and financial compensation, although they are often unaware of that fact. This point is underscored by Daniel Hansen, a partner in the law firm of Turley, Hansen & Rosasco, the only legal team in the nation devoted exclusively to winning compensation for September 11 survivors. He notes that, “while the Health Program is funded through the year 2090, the VCF is currently scheduled to close to new applicants on December 18, 2020.” Because establishing eligibility for either of these programs can take many months, however, Mr. Hansen recommends that survivors register for the VCF (as well as for the World Trade Center Health Program) sooner, rather than later, in order to preserve their rights.

He also cautions against waiting to enroll in either, under the mistaken belief that such benefits should be held in reserve, in anticipation of a calamity. “The way the VCF is set up,” says Mr. Hansen, “if a client develops additional disabilities related to 9/11, we can amend their claim at any time in the future. A person we represent might come to us initially for simple breathing problems and we get an award for them from the VCF based on that. Later, God forbid, if they develop a 9/11-related cancer, we can get them an additional award and lifelong medical care. So if they get worse, we can do more for them, and get more compensation and healthcare for them.”

“We want everyone who is eligible to learn what they need to do now,” agrees Ms. Flynn, “in order to get the benefits provided by both programs. The Health Program is the best available care for 9/11 illness and the VCF is offering compensation for a range of physical illnesses, including the classic 9/11 respiratory symptoms, in addition to cancers.”

“There are questions we hear over and over again,” Mr. Hansen recounts, “such as clients wanting to know how they can prove that a cancer was caused by 9/11. Although the criteria are very intricate, for the most part, if you have one of the dozens of cancers on the list and you were in the exposure zone on day of the attacks or in the months that followed, you get a presumption that it was caused by 9/11.”

A Town Hall meeting on Monday will focus on the needs and questions of “survivors” – meaning those who resided, worked, or attended school near the World Trade Center on September 11,2001, or in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of that day.

“The Health Program was created so that survivors would have access to healthcare for their 9/11-related health problems,” Ms. Flynn reflects, “both physical health and mental health issues. The list of conditions eligible for treatment now includes more than 68 types of cancer.” She also urges survivors to contact 9/11EA (via email, at info@911ea.org, or telephone, at 212-330-7658) for advice or assistance in enrolling for the World Trade Center Health Program.
“What’s so important now is for residents and others to learn about the process for each
program, and especially to complete their VCF claims by a hard deadline of December 18, 2020,” Ms Flynn emphasizes.

Anyone interested in attending Monday’s Town Hall — which will be held on the 19th floor/south of One Centre Street — is asked to R.S.V.P. by browsing: 911health2018.eventbrite.com, or by calling 212-330-7658. Admission is free, but space is limited, and advance registration can guarantee admission.

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