Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New Law Provides Benefits For 9/11 Workers and Volunteers: Spread the Word

I'm republishing this article by New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) Communications director Jonathan Bennett to make sure it gets wide distribution. If you know anyone who might be affected, please pass it on or reprint it.

In short, New York State has just passed a law making tens of thousands of people, including volunteers, eligible for workers’ compensation. The law went into effect on August 14 and those who are eligible have one year to register.

NYCOSH is a non-profit educational advocacy organization that has been active in fighting for medical treatment for workers and volunteers who have become sick as a result of exposure to toxic substances in the aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Center. They are concerned that many of those eligible will not register because they are unaware of the new legislation that extends the time limits for filing claims.

New law provides benefits for 9/11 workers and volunteers: Registration open for a year

By Jonathan Bennett

Thanks to a new law, most people who performed rescue, recovery or cleanup work after the collapse of the World Trade Center are now eligible to register with the Workers’ Compensation Board. Anyone who is registered who develops a 9/11-related illness at any time in the future will be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim. Failure to register by August 14, 2007 will make it impossible to file a claim, even if the worker develops a 9/11-related illness.

"Now all those who did rescue, recovery or cleanup work after 9/11 have an opportunity to ensure that if they ever become ill as a result, their medical expenses will be covered one hundred percent," said Joel Shufro, Executive Director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. "But for that to happen they need to register within a year. I urge anyone who did paid or unpaid work in Lower Manhattan after 9/11, whether sick or healthy, to find out about eligibility requirements and register. Working in partnership with the National Disaster Ministries of the United Church of Christ we have launched a major campaign to inform all workers and volunteers about the new program."

The new law permits workers and volunteers who worked in lower Manhattan after the attack on the World Trade Center who are ill, and those who were exposed to toxic substances and may become ill in the future, until August 14, 2007 to register with the New York State Worker’s Compensation Board.

Some workers and volunteers have been prevented from getting compensation because they only began to become sick after the 2-year deadline for filing a claim. Others who were exposed to the toxic atmosphere in Lower Manhattan are healthy now, but may develop a 9/11-related disease in the future. Under the old rules, they would also have been prevented from receiving benefits.

The law applies to most people who did paid or unpaid rescue, recovery or cleanup work in Lower Manhattan south of Canal or Pike Streets between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 12, 2002. It also applies to rescue, recovery or cleanup workers who worked at the Staten Island landfill, the barge operation between Manhattan and Staten Island or the New York City morgue, and temporary morgues. The only workers who are not covered are those who are not in the workers’ compensation system: NYC uniformed services (firefighters, police, sanitation workers), NYC teachers and federal employees. But those workers are eligible if they performed any rescue, recovery or cleanup work off-duty, as a volunteer.

Anyone who has already filed a claim for 9/11-related workers’ compensation and been turned down because the claim was filed after the 2-year filing deadline had passed can register and file a new claim under the new law.

Workers who have already filed for workers’ compensation for injuries suffered during the rescue, recovery or cleanup operation should register in case they develop a 9/11-related condition that is different from the basis of their established claim. An already-established claim does not cover the new condition.

The registration must be notarized and indicate the dates and locations of the rescue, recovery or cleanup work performed and the employer’s name, or the organization for whom the volunteer worked, if applicable.

"It is imperative that anyone who worked within the boundaries or at the sites detailed in the law register with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board whether they are sick or not," said Shufro. "By joining the registry before the deadline, a year from now, workers and volunteers will preserve their rights to benefits. Failure to register within the next twelve months will prevent individuals who may develop cancer or other slow starting diseases some years from now receiving benefits."