New York Legislation To Expand Health Care Benefits For 9/11 Workers

Armen Hareyan's picture

Governor David A. Paterson announced plans to submit legislation to cover additional public workers who risked their health and safety in the rescue, recovery and clean-up efforts at the World Trade Center after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The legislation embraces the unanimous recommendations of the bi-partisan September 11th Worker Protection Task Force.

Under the Governor's legislation, the "presumptive accidental disability retirement benefit" now available to some 9/11 first responders will be extended to additional first responders. A committee of doctors on the Task Force found that additional workers were exposed to the same toxins and psychological trauma as those originally covered.

"In the midst of the devastation of September 11th, men and women in public service risked their lives to aid in the search for survivors and victims," said Governor Paterson. "As the nation grieved these heroes returned to work day and night, selflessly placing their own health at risk. It is our duty to offer them the protections they deserve in their time of illness."

Additional first responders covered under this bill include: (i) state and county corrections officers and deputy sheriffs ; (ii) the non-uniformed first responders who were not required to undergo a pre-employment physical examination; (iii) 911 dispatchers; (iv) first responders who worked for any period of time within the first 48 hours after the first plane hit the World Trade Center; (v) emergency vehicle radio repair mechanics; (vi) vested members of a public pension system who terminated their employment prior to filing a claim; and (vii) workers who became disabled more than two years after 9/11 but before an extension was granted in the Workers Compensation Law which would have covered them.

Since many of the non-uniformed NYC and State workers at the site had not been required to undergo a pre-employment physical examination, a prerequisite to receiving benefits under the prior 9/11 legislation, the Governor's bill extends benefits to those employees if they provide access to medical records and demonstrate the absence of a pre-qualifying condition prior to September 11, 2001. In addition, the geographic boundaries of the 9/11 disability benefits law are being expanded to emergency vehicle garages and emergency call centers, because the Task Force found emergency vehicle radio repair mechanics were exposed to dust and 911 operators experienced psychological trauma that has led to disabilities similar to those suffered by workers at the World Trade Center site.

Finally, current law requires that claimants participated in the WTC rescue, recovery or cleanup operations for a minimum of 40 hours, but scientific evidence gathered by the Task Force has shown there was a "substantial risk" of developing respiratory, gastrointestinal and / or mental health disability for first responders at the site during the first 48 hours after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center Towers. Therefore, the Governor's legislation covers any first responder who worked during the first 48 hours after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said: "Governor Paterson is doing the right thing. Every effort to more thoroughly monitor, test and, if necessary, treat the illnesses of the workers at Ground Zero is a welcome step in the right direction."

U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton said: "I am pleased to welcome legislation that expands benefits to the heroes who responded during our hour of need, and are now suffering adverse health effects because of their selflessness. By extending benefits to these individuals who were critical in our response to the September 11th attacks, New York State is demonstrating that it will not forget the sacrifices made by so many. I commend Governor Paterson for these efforts, and look forward to the swift passage of this legislation."

Congressman Jerrold Nadler said: "I applaud Governor Paterson for introducing this essential legislation.While the fires were still burning at Ground Zero, brave men and women came to New York to provide help. And during their selfless service, these workers unnecessarily exposed themselves to toxins and containments. As Governor Paterson works with the New York State Legislature to pass this worthy bill, Congress must also act. This is a debt that can never fully be repaid, but we must do right by the living victims of 9/11."

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said: "All New Yorkers should be proud that Governor Paterson and the State Assembly and Senate are leading the charge to take care of the heroes of 9/11, and it's high time the federal government did the same by passing the Maloney-Nadler-Fossella-King 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. It is a moral imperative for our government to take care of Americans who risked their lives and health to save others in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. The contrast between the state and federal responses to this health crisis could not be clearer: New York is finding new ways to help the heroes of 9/11, while the Bush administration is still trying to avoid this responsibility."


Congressman Peter King said: "The heroes of 9/11 became sick after working in the dust cloud of Ground Zero to save the lives of others. It is our duty to develop a plan to monitor and care for these responders. I fully support the establishment of the World Trade Center Health Program and will do all I can to ensure that the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act becomes law."

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said: "This bill will help ensure that first responders, who put their lives on the line in the minutes, days, weeks and months after the September 11th attacks, get the health care treatment and benefits they deserve. I thank the members of the 9/11 Worker Protection Task Force for their work. The Senate advocated for the establishment of the task force in the original legislation that addressed this issue. This bill mirrors the task force's recommendations for ensuring that 9/11 heroes are properly taken care of."

Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith said: "Legislation to expand health care benefits beyond its initial scope, which left out hundreds of 9/11 workers, was long overdue. People from across the city, state, and country fearlessly risked their lives in an act of patriotism and their efforts should not be forgotten. It is time for the legislators to stand up for those workers the same way they stood up for us in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center--unconditionally. I join my colleagues in commending the Governor on introducing this bill and call on the legislature to pledge full support to expand health care benefits to 9/11 workers."

Senator George Onorato, Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Labor Committee, said: "I commend Governor Paterson and the September 11th Worker Protection Task Force for their efforts to expand needed health care benefits to additional men and women who aided in search and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center. We have an obligation to provide care for these brave first responders who risked their own health and safety in service to others on that dreadful day."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said: "This measure is a simple matter of fairness for the men and women whose health has suffered in the aftermath of their work as first responders to the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. I am pleased that Governor Paterson has followed the recommendation of the September 11th Worker Protection Task Force and, introduced legislation to extend health and disability benefits to these individuals -- including many who live or work in Lower Manhattan -- who served with such extraordinary dedication on September 11th and in the difficult days that followed the terrorist attack."

Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco said: "The courageous first-responders who risked their lives to help save fellow New Yorkers in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks are genuine heroes and fully deserving of expanded access to health care benefits. We owe these heroes a profound debt of gratitude on behalf of a grateful nation that was inspired and deeply moved by the selfless heroism and bravery displayed by our first responders. I applaud Governor Paterson for making the expansion of health care benefits to 9/11 workers a priority and I look forward to working with him and my legislative colleagues to ensure these heroes continue to know just how much they are truly appreciated by all New Yorkers."

Assemblymember Peter Abbate, Chair of the Assembly Government Employees Committee, said: "By extending health and disability benefits to these additional workers, the Governor is acknowledging the vitally important tasks they performed on September 11th and the days following the devastating terrorist attack, as well as the fact that, in performing their duties, these workers were exposed to conditions that put their health at serious risk. It is important to note that the recommendation to provide benefits to these workers was based on the careful work of the bipartisan September 11th Worker Protection Task Force."

Assemblymember Joseph Saladino, Ranking member of the Assembly Governmental Employees Committee, said: "It is an honor to work with Governor Patterson to provide further protections and assistance to those selfless heroes whose only concern was to rescue the lives of Americans in the hours and days following the 9/11 attacks on our nation. As a lawmaker whose focus is protecting those who protect the public I am eager to pass this legislation and make a difference for so many men and women who now and in the future will be suffering do to their unselfish acts. When we called on them needing their assistance the first responders came running, now is our turn to do the same."

Lou Matarazzo, Vice Chairman of the September 11th Worker Protection Task Force, said: "The original legislation might have overlooked some of the workers who risked their lives responding to the attack on the World Trade Center, and had conditions that were too stringent for all affected workers to receive benefits. This legislation goes a long way toward correcting those conditions."

Patrick J. Lynch, President of the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said: "Clearly Governor Paterson recognizes the great personal sacrifice made by all those who rallied to save and help the city recover after the attacks of 9/11. The Governor's proposal expands benefits to those responders whose welfare fell between the cracks of the first law. This bill should be supported by all of our legislators and signed into law as quickly as possible. We add our voice to all of those praising Governor Paterson for his proposal."

Steve Cassidy, President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York, said: "We applaud the governor for his proactive support of firefighters and all first responders."