At least 500,000 people were exposed to toxins in lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks. More people have now died from 9/11 illnesses than the near 3,000 who died on 9/11. While many were there on 9/11, the majority came to the area during the 8 months that followed. Those who lived, worked, and went to school in lower Manhattan were exposed to the same toxic air that our heroic first responders breathed, and they are eligible for the same benefits from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). Moreover, most families of people who die from 9/11-illness are entitled to substantial compensation from the VCF.
Unfortunately, every day we speak to spouses and children of deceased parents who have no idea how to obtain proof that their spouse or parent was working in the 9/11 exposure zone. There are things all of us can do now to make sure our families receive the compensation they are entitled to after you pass.
If you were exposed, here are some things you should do now:
1) Obtain proof of presence.
You were there, but how will your family prove it if you aren’t here to help? You are in the best position to obtain the important records and witness information that prove you were exposed. These may include employment records, union records, tax records, real estate records, and of course the names and contact information of the people who saw you in lower Manhattan. You should obtain witness presence statements now, and you should identify as many people as possible who can serve as witnesses for you, along with their contact information.
2) Enroll in the World Trade Center Health Program now.
This program provides medical care and monitoring to the 9/11 community. It also officially “certifies” 9/11 illnesses, which is a pre-requisite to obtaining compensation from the VCF. If your illness is certified, it will forever be recognized as a 9/11 condition. This will be an enormous help to your family if you later die of a 9/11 illness.
3) Save important medical records.
If you have been diagnosed with any 9/11 medical condition, including respiratory conditions or cancer, you should obtain and keep any records regarding the initial diagnosis of your condition. This includes biopsy and pathology reports, physician reports, pulmonary function tests and imagining results (CT scan, MRI).
4) File a claim with the VCF, even for minor conditions.
In fact, we recommend that you file a claim with the Victim Compensation Fund even if you are currently healthy. Once the VCF has found that you are eligible, there is an official determination that you were present in the exposure zone. This will spare your family from having to prove your presence should you pass away and they seek benefits in the future. And, tell your family that you registered with the VCF and have secured proof of presence.
5) Again, we urge you to talk to your family.
Make sure that your loved ones know that you were exposed to 9/11 toxins, and that they might be entitled to benefits from the VCF if you pass away from a 9/11-related illness. The government will not reach out to your family. It is up to you to make sure they know what to do. Keep a 9/11 folder for them with important information they’ll need, including medical records and WTC Health Program certifications, witness information, information regarding any pending 9/11 claims, and important contacts. Make sure they know where to get help.
6) Make a last will and testament.
The VCF’s rules provide that only a court-appointed estate representative has the authority to bring a claim on behalf of a deceased victim. If you have a will, you can name someone you trust to serve as executor and bring the VCF claim. Moreover, at least part of every VCF award is an asset of the victim’s estate. With a will, you can decide who should receive this part of the award. If you don’t have a will, the award will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy, and the people you most wanted to help might receive nothing.
If you have any questions on things you can do now to ensure that your family receives the compensation they deserve, please contact us.