Many illnesses suffered by responders and survivors of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) could put those individuals at greater risk of serious infection from the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Indeed, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “some WTC Health Program members with certain conditions, WTC-related or not, may be at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.” As you may already know, the WTC Health Program is related to but is distinct from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). While the VCF provides compensation to responders and survivors of the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath, the WTC Health Program “provides medical monitoring and treatment for responders at the WTC in New York City, and survivors who were in the New York City disaster area,” according to NYC 9/11 Health from NYC.gov.
The following are some important things to know about the coronavirus pandemic, the VCF, and the WTC Health Program.
9/11 Survivors and Responders with Respiratory Disease May Be at Greater Risk of Illness from the Novel Coronavirus
Many of the illnesses suffered by 9/11 responders and survivors are related to the respiratory system. Indeed, the “covered conditions” under the WTC Health Program, for which a responder or survivor may be eligible to receive compensation from the VCF, include a wide variety of illnesses and diseases connected to the respiratory system. Some of those illnesses include lesions or diseases of the bronchus and lung, the heart, mediastinum, pleura, and other “ill-defined sites in the respiratory system and intrathoracic organs.” For responders and survivors who are already receiving treatment through the WTC Health Program or are planning to apply for benefits from the VCF, it is important to understand how coronavirus could impact your health.
The CDC explains that COVID-19 may disproportionately impact people aged 65 years and older, as well as people with certain underlying medical conditions, particularly those affecting the respiratory tract. For example, people who suffer from lung disease or asthma, or people who have serious heart conditions, could be at increased risk of a severe case of COVID-19.
Seeking Help for Respiratory Illnesses Caused By 9/11 Exposure
If you have a covered respiratory illness as a result of exposure as a responder or survivor after 9/11 and you have not already registered with the VCF, that should be your first step. By registering, you are not required to submit a claim at a later date; yet registering is what allows you to have the ability to file a claim at a later date. Anyone who is planning to seek benefits must register by July 29, 2021.
Once you have registered, you can begin the process of filing a claim. To obtain compensation from the VCF, you are required to submit a variety of materials and documentation to prove that you qualify as a responder or survivor, and that you were exposed in the “New York City Exposure Zone.” While in-person offices for the VCF and the WTC Health Program are largely are closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, beneficiaries still have multiple options for seeking assistance. The VCF has a helpline that is open from Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The WTC Health Program has expanded its use of telehealth services, and it has also implemented in-person safeguards for essential appointments.
Seek Assistance from a 9/11 VCF Lawyer
If you need assistance determining your eligibility for VCF benefits or the WTC Health Program during the coronavirus pandemic, an experienced 9/11 VCF attorney at our firm can assist you. Contact The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. to learn more about the services we provide to New York responders, survivors, and their families regardless of where you might now be residing.