9/11 Attorneys Facilitate Victim Compensation Fund Claims for Construction Workers
Experienced WTC lawyers obtain the benefits you deserve
In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there was an urgent drive to return New York City to normal. Unfortunately, the work of restoring the city began before it was safe to return. Federal, state and local officials did not understand the gravity of the toxic contamination and allowed work to go forward without proper guidelines for workers’ safety. As a result, many construction workers who labored to rebuild damaged areas of lower Manhattan, or simply worked at regular jobs within the contamination zone, have been afflicted with many of the same cancers and respiratory illnesses that have decimated 9/11 first responders.
Fortunately, assistance is available. Construction industry employees who develop 9/11-related cancers and other illnesses can qualify for free health screenings and treatment from the WTC Health Program and cash benefits from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. At Barasch & McGarry, we have represented injured construction workers for decades and have been advocates for victims of 9/11 since the very beginning of the fight for compensation. We are determined to help construction workers obtain the 9/11 benefits they deserve.
Construction workers’ rights under the James Zadroga Act
In 2010, Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. But when it became apparent that contamination was continuing to claim new victims, Congress reauthorized the Act in 2016. Under the Zadroga Act, the WTC Health Program provides free health screenings and medical treatment for 9/11 responders and others who developed illnesses stemming from the toxins released at Ground Zero.
The law also established the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to provide cash benefits. As of August 2017, victims had filed a total of 30,081 eligibility claims, and VCF had processed more than 14,000, awarding more than $3 billion. The VCF lists construction workers as an eligible group in the Non-Responder NYC cleaning or maintenance work claimant category. Many thousands of workers are potentially eligible, but as of August 31, 2017, only 1,038 claims had been submitted in this category.
Benefits for construction workers at Ground Zero and throughout lower Manhattan
Many NYC construction workers participated in the cleanup and rubble removal from Ground Zero. The fires continued to burn at the center of the pile for 99 days, emitting highly toxic smoke. As the pile stabilized, work crews were able to use heavy equipment. They reinforced the foundations of the damaged buildings against flooding and built roads to carry away tons of debris, eventually estimated at 1.8 million tons. This labor took a total of eight months and 19 days, and all that time the site was awash in highly toxic fumes containing asbestos, benzene from the jet fuel, diesel exhaust, pulverized cement, glass fibers, silica, and lead. Unfortunately, only about 20 percent of the workers on site had gas masks that were appropriate for the environment. Eye and lung irritations quickly became issues, and now, more than 16 years later, the Ground Zero toxins have been linked to 68 different forms of cancer.
But Ground Zero was not the only place where construction workers were affected. Throughout lower Manhattan, the toxic dust was everywhere. Indoor decontamination needed to be done, but once again, there was inadequate consideration of worker safety. Tests showed that the dust which had settled within buildings contained toxic substances including asbestos, and that HVAC systems needed to be professionally cleaned. However, the New York City Department of Health acted in violation of city, state, and federal laws by placing responsibility for decontamination on landlords and residents. This dereliction created an enormous health risk to residents — many of whom received absurd NYCDOH guidance on cleaning their apartments — and workers performing decontamination services. Many workers only wore paper masks as they vacuumed highly toxic dust from air vents. Workers developed persistent illnesses, including asthma and gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and now many find themselves as part of the emerging cancer cluster.
Affirmative steps that 9/11-affected construction workers must take
Many labor unions have been urging their members to file a WTC-12 Form to protect their right to file a WTC-related New York State workers’ compensation claim. The deadline to register is September 11, 2018. But workers should also register for the World Trade Center Health Program and file a claim with the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. To prove eligibility for VCF benefits, construction workers must demonstrate:
- Employment south of Canal Street from Sept. 11, 2001 to May 30, 2002; and
- Diagnosis of a cancer or specific respiratory illnesses linked to the toxic dust of the WTC
But you must register within the time permitted, or you lose your right to compensation.
Deadline to register for 9/11 VCF has been extended
If you are a construction worker who has been diagnosed with any of the 68 cancers that doctors at the WTC Health Program have linked to Ground Zero toxic dust, the deadline to apply for VCF benefits is two years from the date that your type of cancer was certified by the WTC Health Program — or any other governmental agency. However, your two-year period to register doesn’t start on the day of your cancer diagnosis. Rather, it starts only when you are made aware your cancer was linked to exposure to the WTC toxins. If you are closely related to a construction worker who died from a WTC-linked cancer, your family has two years from the date of death to register. Please be sure to register and help spread the word about the strict two-year deadline to register a claim.
Our firm is ready to help you apply
Many people have tried to complete the VCF application on their own, only to learn that it requires answers to hundreds of questions and many documents to download. It would be our pleasure to help you complete the process to ensure that you receive the compensation that you are entitled to. Please call us for a free consultation.
Contact Barasch & McGarry to pursue your WTC benefits
Barasch & McGarry has been fighting for WTC survivors since the beginning. Our firm has collected more money from the Victim Compensation Fund for its injured clients than any other law firm, and we are determined to help as many construction workers as possible. Call us at 888.351.9421 or contact us online to discuss your rights.