On September 11, 2001, this country (and City) experienced the single greatest attack on its soil in our history. This attack led to, among other things, the destruction of the World Trade Center and surrounding areas and the release of toxins into the environment.
As a result of the tremendous response of police officers and others, one that as a country and a City we would like to see repeated in the event of another catastrophe, some of our members, most of whom are in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, are now strongly believed to be suffering with illnesses and sicknesses caused by their exposure to the toxic chemical mix at Ground Zero and other locations. That toxic mix included such deadly agents as asbestos, benzene, mercury, freon, PCB’s, lead and other carcinogens. Standing alone, these agents are known to be deadly. Because of the unprecedented nature of this catastrophe, neither the medical nor scientific community can adequately predict the consequences to our responders of being exposed to these deadly compounds when mixed together. Despite millions of dollars in various monies being targeted for monitoring and treatment, our members have received precious little information as to what specific types of health consequences our members are experiencing and reporting, other than vague references to sinus, respiratory and mental health issues all of which are serious, but we believe do not represent the full range of illnesses our members are experiencing.
Among other efforts, the PBA has taken on the task of providing information to our members by establishing its own web-based registry. The purpose of this registry is to gather information currently available regarding illnesses responders are experiencing as a result of 9/11 and related exposures as well as to make available other published literature on WTC- related illnesses. We also have posted Department Directives, laws and other authority concerning WTC- related health issues, and provided information relating to existing federally funded monitoring and treatment programs. You can find this information at nycpba.org (WTC). We encourage you to contact the PBA at (212) 298-9162 and volunteer to provide information about any diagnosed health conditions that may be affecting you so that deidentified information may be posted on the registry as an aid to other officers.
Additionally, we would like to inform our members about the World Trade Center Presumption Bill and a recent amendment to the Bill that adds certain death benefits. The WTC Presumption Bill allows members to file for a disability retirement or members who obtained a service or disability retirement to have their status changed to an accident disability retirement provided that the following conditions are met:
Worked 40 or more hours at the WTC site (defined as the area of Manhattan south of Canal and Pike Streets), the Fresh Kills Landfill, the New York City Morgue or temporary morgue located on pier locations on the west side of Manhattan, or the barges located between the west side of Manhattan and the Fresh Kills Landfill; or,
Worked less than 40 hours at any of the above locations due to a documented injury that occurred on 9/11/01 or 9/12/01 during the WTC rescue operation; and,
Filed a Notice of Participation with the NYC Police Pension Fund detailing the dates and hours worked at any of the above locations. A Notice of Participation must be filed with the PPF by June 14, 2007, a copy of which is attached; and,
Suffers from a disability caused by one of the enumerated conditions listed in the WTC Presumption Bill.
The filing of the Notice of Participation is not an application for accident disability retirement; it merely places the PPF on notice that you may be eligible for the benefits of the statute, including retirement reclassification, should you develop one of the conditions in the statute. Therefore, members are strongly encouraged to complete a Notice of Participation regardless of whether any signs and symptoms of a medical condition are present. The Notice of Participation forms are available online at http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycppf/pdf/wtc_lawfactsheet.pdf, and are also on this website. A complete list of the enumerated diseases can be found in the PPF fact sheet that accompanies the Notice of Participation form. Failure to file a Notice of Participation by June 14, 2007 means you will be unable to receive statutory benefits in the events of illness or death.
In the Fall, a PBA supported amendment was signed into law by Governor Pataki that adds a death benefit to the WTC Presumption Law. Under this amendment, beneficiaries of members who meet the requirements listed above will be able to obtain line of duty death benefits provided that the member has not been retired for more than 25 years and there is a finding that the death resulted from one of the diseases enumerated in the statute.
Finally, we want to make you aware of the medical monitoring and treatment program available at Mt. Sinai and other hospitals for all 9/11 responders. While we have our disagreements with aspects of the program, we support any effort that will help identify illnesses being suffered by our members, will lead to the publication of deidentified information to help other responders and will provide first-rate treatment for our members. Information is available about these programs in our World Trade Center section on this website.
Patrick J. Lynch