9/11 fund makes first payments to sick responders

15 first responders with respiratory problems were the first to get payouts from the special fund

Topics: 9/11, First responders, Health Care, From the Wires, New York City,

NEW YORK (AP) — A special fund set up by Congress to compensate people who got sick after being exposed to toxic World Trade Center dust following Sept. 11 is making its first round of payments, with the initial payouts going to a group of 15 first responders with respiratory problems.

The administrator who oversees the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, Sheila Birnbaum, announced Tuesday that the fund was finally poised to process payouts, after a deliberate start in which officials figured out how the program would work and lawyers pieced together documentation for at least 16,000 applications.

The first round of payments, most of which have been offered to firefighters, range from $10,000 to a high of $1.5 million.

Birnbaum declined to identify the recipients by name or say much about their illnesses, citing privacy concerns. She said their health problems range from “serious” to “not so serious,” and that the people getting the larger awards tended to be younger, and to have suffered more severe economic losses.

The people offered lower amounts include some who have already received other compensation for their illnesses, including shares of a civil settlement for thousands of firefighters, police officers and construction workers who had sued over the lack of protective equipment at ground zero.

You Might Also Like

None of the people in the initial group had cancer, and all are still living, Birnbaum said.

“We think we are off to a good start, and with the help of the lawyers and the claimants, we will be able to come up with a lot more awards in the coming months,” she said.

It will be years, though, before any applicants see the bulk of their money, or even know for certain how much they will get.

Officials don’t yet know how many people will apply for aid from the $2.78 billion fund, or how ill they will be. That means they can’t yet calculate each person’s share. So for now, applicants are getting only 10 percent of their award. The remainder won’t be paid until after the fund closes to new applicants in 2016.

Some advocates for the sick have worried that the $2.78 billion appropriated by Congress will be far less than the actual losses suffered by the sick — a possibility that Birnbaum acknowledged in drafting the formula she is using to decide how much money claimants will get in the first round.

Planning for a worst-case scenario, fund officials estimated that as many as 26,475 people would be eligible for more than $8.5 billion in compensation.

If that happens, the firefighter awarded $1.5 million this week would, in the end, actually get a prorated share of only around $488,000.

“I think without question, there is not going to be enough,” said Noah Kushlefsky, a lawyer who, along with partners, is representing about 4,700 claimants. He said that he believed Congress would ultimately be asked to put more money into the fund. “There is no doubt, based on the severity of some of the injuries.”

As for the slow pace of awards so far, Kushlefsky said Birnbaum and her staff are not to blame.

He said the process of assembling the evidence showing that his clients were actually at ground zero, or were exposed to toxins, has been challenging and time-consuming. But he said the process is hitting a stage when applications should be moving much more quickly.

“I think that things are going to start taking off in the very near future,” he said, noting that some of his clients have grumbled about the slowness of the process. “All these guys have waited 11 years now, and none of them are warm and fuzzy about it.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>