When the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, 2001, a mushroom cloud of toxic dust surged through lower Manhattan. Countless victims at the crash site, including firefighters and police, were caked in a thick grey dust covering their bodies, burning their skin and lungs.
As a nation, one way we came together to heal was by Congress enacting the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) to provide economic relief to victims and their families. Led by Ron Motley and his anti-terrorism practice group, Motley Rice proudly represented 9/11 victims before the original VCF. Indeed, my first experience as a plaintiff’s lawyer after serving in the Navy JAG Corps was to stand up before a VCF Board in New York to represent a 9/11 victim at my side—a moment I’ll never forget.
Since the original VCF closed in December 2003, we have learned that a vast number of rescue and recovery workers were exposed to toxins and carcinogens at the 9/11 crash sites, causing them to now be afflicted with illnesses including cancers that took years to develop.
Recognizing that deadly latent illnesses now plague 9/11 victims, Congress last year reopened the VCF by passing the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (New VCF).
Since the New VCF reopened, Motley Rice has brought New VCF claims on behalf of a broad array of 9/11 victims who trust our knowledge and experience. And during that process, we have come across many cancer-stricken 9/11 rescue and recovery workers seeking our help. But regretfully, as of today, cancer is currently not an eligible condition under the New VCF.
The good news is that may be about to change. On April 2, 2012, the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) recommended to Dr. John Howard, the health administrator of the Zadroga Act, to make approximately 30 cancers, including mesothelioma and lung cancer, eligible for treatment under the WTC Health Program. Under the Zadroga Act, Dr. Howard has 60 days to act on that recommendation.
Praising the STAC’s recommendation to make cancer an eligible condition, U.S. Senators and Representatives from New York recently published their letter urging Dr. Howard to make it so, emphasizing that his “final determination as to whether to add certain cancers also will have a large impact on the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, as Special Master Sheila Birnbaum has said the list of presumptively covered conditions for the VCF could be modified based on the determinations of the WTC Health Program.” Simply put, if Dr. Howard decides cancer is an eligible condition, then cancer-stricken 9/11 clients may be eligible under the New VCF.
We hope Dr. Howard and Special Master Birnbaum will make cancer an eligible condition so that cancer-stricken 9/11 victims will receive long-awaited, just compensation.