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Health Programs

New NY State Law Allows Unlimited Sick Leave for Government-Employed 9/11 First Responders

September 15, 2017 | Michael Barasch

New York State lawmakers recently addressed an inequitable situation creating hardship for 9/11 responders who work on state and municipal payrolls outside of New York City. In the years since the terrorist attacks, thousands of first responders and rescue and recovery workers have become sick due to exposure to toxic air at Ground Zero, but only those based in New York City were given unlimited paid sick leave for medical treatment. Workers from Long Island, the Hudson Valley, or Upstate often exhausted their sick leave and suffered severe financial consequences.

Finally, this July, the New York Legislature passed S6398A, a bill sponsored by Senators Martin J. Golden and Todd Kaminsky, and A00711B, a bill sponsored by Aileen Gunter, extending the right of unlimited sick leave to all state and municipal workers who develop a 9/11-related illness.

Also, according to Politico, “The Legislature… passed a bill that provides volunteer firefighters who contract certain cancers with enhanced disability benefits, the same kind career firefighters receive.” This may include a lump sum payment of $25,000 or $1,500 per month of disability. Families of firefighters who die from 9/11-related illnesses are eligible for a $50,000 benefit.

The new laws are a major step forward, especially as we see more and more 9/11 survivors develop illnesses such as prostate cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, and testicular cancer that have long latency periods. Unfortunately, we are beginning to learn that illnesses suffered by responders and recovery workers are only the tip of the iceberg. What lurks beneath the surface are potentially tens of thousands of future victims: teachers and students, office workers, and lower Manhattan residents, who believed the government’s declaration that the air was safe to breathe. New York and the nation must be prepared to respond to this coming health crisis.

For now, help is available through the World Trade Center Health Program and the Victim Compensation Fund. Survivors can register for free health screenings if they were present in Manhattan below Canal Street on these dates:

  • September 11, 2001 when the toxic dust cloud was released, or
  • For at least 24 hours between September 11 and September 30, 2001, or
  • For at least 80 hours between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002

Eligible people who have become sick with a 9/11-related condition, including one or more of 68 recognized cancers, may also be eligible for monetary compensation, but they must file within two years of their diagnosis.

If you have questions about your eligibility for benefits from the WTC Health Program or the Victim Compensation Fund, contact our experienced attorneys who have represented 9/11 survivors from the outset. Call Barasch & McGarry at [ln::phone] or contact our office online.

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