Time is running out for those who participated in rescue, recovery and cleanup following the collapse of the World Trade Center to preserve their right to file for 9/11-related workers’ compensation benefits. Workers and volunteers who fail to register with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board by August 14, 2007 will be barred from filing a claim even if they develop a 9/11-related physical or mental illness in the future.
Only a small minority of workers and volunteers-less than 7,000 of the estimated 100,000 eligible-has registered under a new workers’ compensation law, according to the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), a nonprofit educational advocacy organization.
“It is imperative that people 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 Joel Shufro, the organization’s executive director. “Failure to register will prevent individuals who may develop cancer or other slow-starting diseases from receiving benefits.”
Under New York State’s Workers’ Compensation Law, most workers would be barred from filing a claim two years after an injury. But in August 2006, the state legislature enacted legislation that allowed workers to preserve their right to file a claim, now and in the future by registering with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board.
A week before 9/11’s fifth anniversary, a study released by Mount Sinai Medical Center detailed the drastic damage to health faced by 9/11 workers and volunteers who inhaled the toxic dust. More than 70 percent of the 9,500 patients examined developed a potentially serious respiratory illness. Additionally, the study stated that the longer-term health consequences of exposure are still unknown.
Consequently, all responders should register now even if they are healthy. By doing so, they will be eligible to file for benefits later should they become ill – even for conditions that might develop twenty to thirty years later.
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 those who worked at the Staten Island landfill, the barge operation between Manhattan and Staten Island or the New York City Morgue (or any of the temporary Morgues set up during that period). Immigration status-whether documented or not-does not affect a person’s eligibility.
If you are in doubt about whether or not you qualify, find out. For detailed information, contact your union, visit the NYCOSH Web site at www.nycosh.org <http://www.nycosh.org/> , or call the toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-866-WTC-2556. Information is available in Spanish and English. Find out about registration requirements now before it’s too late.