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Medical Responders with 9/11-Related Illnesses Struggle to Obtain Disability Pensions

January 15, 2018 | Michael Barasch

More than 16 years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, responders are still becoming ill as a result of the poisons released at Ground Zero. These illnesses, from asthma and GERD to 68 types of deadly cancers, have forced many responders to take early retirement. But, as the New York Post recently reported, different pension programs govern retirement for different classes of responders, so while FDNY firefighters are being protected, medical responders who work for FDNY, who responded to the same scene, and who faced the same perils, are having extreme difficulty obtaining a fair outcome.

When a work-related illness forces an FDNY firefighter into retirement, the FDNY pension fund pays three-quarters of the firefighter’s salary. The average disability pension for an FDNY member is $75,043 versus the average regular service pension of $44,659. On top of that, the income from the disability pension is tax free. The extra income is vitally important to these firefighters and their families, whose future is terribly uncertain. Fortunately, the FDNY Pension Fund has been receptive to firefighters’ claims of 9/11-related disability.

Not so for the paramedics and EMTs employed by the FDNY. The New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS) manages their pension plan and has rejected 9/11-related disability claims at a much higher rate than the FDNY Pension Fund. As the Post reports, NYCERS rejected 56 of 116 disability claims from EMTs and paramedics last year.

Sen. Martin Golden of Brooklyn is questioning the disparity between the two systems. But NYCERS has had no comment on the issue. According to general counsel Ilyse Sisolak, “NYCERS has no comment because it is confidential, since the inquiry pertains to medical conditions of its members.”

At Barasch & McGarry, our 9/11 benefits attorneys believe all individuals impacted by 9/11 deserve a fair hearing on their claims. Medical responders who were exposed to the same toxins and who witnessed the same carnage as firefighters are not significantly less likely to have developed disabling conditions such as asthma, GERD, PTSD, and cancer.

In our practice, we are seeing the impact of 9/11 diseases expand rather than contract. We are representing more and more office workers, residents, teachers, and students struggling with disabling and potentially deadly diseases. And we are seeing the emergence of diseases with long latency periods, such as mesothelioma.

Barasch & McGarry would like medical responders to know that help is also available through the WTC Victim Compensation Fund. Even if NYCERS denies your disability claim, you may be able to get compensation and health services from the VCF.

For a free consultation with a lawyer who understands your situation and the law, please contact us online or call [ln::phone].

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