On September 11th, 2023, the New York State Governor, Kathy Hochul, signed a new law that requires local employers to inform employees of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) and the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP).
Many of the estimated 360,000 to 400,000 civilian survivors of the 9/11 attacks are unaware of their rights to free healthcare and significant financial compensation under these programs. The new law will help raise awareness and encourage more victims to step forward and exercise their rights.
Let’s take a closer look at the Act and find out what it means for civilian survivors of 9/11.
What is the 9/11 Notice Act?
Legislation S. 2946-B/A. 75-B is also known as the 9/11 Notice Act. It requires New York State to take the following steps:
“develop rules and regulations necessary to promote awareness and notification to any past or present businesses and their employees which operated in the New York disaster area during the eligible time period of their potential eligibility under the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and the World Trade Center Health Program. This subdivision shall apply to both current and former employees.”
“The [NYS] Department of Economic Development shall determine the most appropriate message and format that the state agencies may use to assist potentially eligible employers and employees with such awareness or notification…”
Under the terms of the Act, employees will need to notify past and present employees of the eligibility requirements for the Victim Compensation Fund.
Furthermore, any business with fifty or more employees that operated within the exposure zone during the eligible period must notify every employee who worked within the exposure zone at the time about their eligibility for the VCF.
Why is the 9/11 Notice Act important?
The significance of this Act lies in the general lack of awareness among ordinary New York civilians of the existence of the WTC Health Program and VCF — and their possible eligibility to claim relief from these programs.
Many civilians were in the exposure zone in the days, weeks, and months that followed the 9/11 attacks. The number who have suffered serious health issues as a result of exposure to a cocktail of toxins present in the air at the time is currently unknown.
Residents, employees, and students were informed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the air was safe to breathe and they could return to their homes, schools, and workplaces — and many are still paying the price for doing this with chronic and, in some cases, life-threatening illnesses.
Almost 70 different cancers, respiratory problems, digestive issues, and more have been connected to 9/11 toxic air — serious conditions that are expensive to treat.
Many 9/11 victims have, however, moved away from New York and are not aware of their entitlement to healthcare and compensation. In fact, fewer than 10 percent of 9/11 survivors have enrolled in the WTCHP or claimed compensation from the VCF to date.
Understandably, perhaps, most of the focus in the past two decades has been on the desperate need for responders to receive the appropriate care and compensation for their heroic efforts. Now that 85 percent of responders have enrolled in the WTCHP, attention has shifted somewhat to ordinary civilians whose health was also negatively affected by 9/11.
The Notice Act is designed to spread awareness to these individuals that help is out there and available for free, as well as significant compensation.
When will the 9/11 Notice Act come into effect?
Under the terms of the new Act, the onus will be on businesses and institutions to inform employees of their rights to 9/11 healthcare and compensation.
The Act became law on September 11, 2023, and will come into effect on June 14, 2024. This provides adequate time for the New York administrative agencies to work with the VCF and WTCHP on the appropriate messaging to raise awareness of rights to healthcare and compensation among office workers, retail workers, residents, and students.
Who qualifies for the WTC Health Program and VCF benefits?
The VCF makes over $10 billion available for 9/11 victims and the WTC Health Program provides free medical monitoring, prescriptions, and treatment for life for any WTC-certified condition(s).
Yet fewer than eight percent of office and retail workers present in the exposure zone between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002 (the eligible dates) have exercised their right to these benefits.
This is despite ordinary workers breathing the same air and suffering from the same chronic health conditions over the past two decades as the 9/11 responders and volunteers. Percentage-wise, more than 10 times the number of responders have signed up to the WTCHP and VCF as other workers in the exposure zone.
The lack of awareness among downtown civilian workers that they are entitled to the same lifetime healthcare and compensation as responders has prompted action from the government in the shape of the 9/11 Notice Act.
How much time do you have to file a claim?
Some workers and other residents of downtown New York at the time of the 9/11 attacks mistakenly believe that it’s too late to receive treatment or compensation for their health condition(s).
Families with a loved one who died from their condition (such as cancer) may be able to claim significant wrongful death compensation from the VCF and even victims who got sick many years ago or have recovered can often claim successfully from the fund.
Get help with the WTC Health Program and VCF claims
Anyone with a qualifying 9/11-related condition and who was present in the exposure zone in Lower Manhattan between September 11th, 2001, and May 30th, 2002 should seek legal advice about the healthcare and compensation that they are entitled to claim.
To discuss your situation and learn more about how we may be able to help you, please call Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP at 332-239-2238 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.