Tracie Hunte, Assistant Producer, WNYC News
Tracie Hunte is an Assistant Producer in the WNYC Newsroom.
The Department of Justice is expected to re-open the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund starting Monday — allowing people whose illness didn't manifest until the months and years after the attacks to be covered for the first time.
The fund was reactivated as part of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act passed last December by Congress, which appropriated $2.7 billion to the program. The boundaries of Lower Manhattan residents eligible for the funds have also been expanded.
How much each claimant will get won’t be known until the number of those seeking funds is decided. Cancer and mental or psychological conditions are not covered under the Zadroga Act.
Sheila Birnbaum, the special master administering the fund, is expected to release the first of a three-part application online on Monday.
The Department of Justice did not confirm the details of the application.
But attorney Michael Barasch, whose firm is poised to represent claimants and says he helped craft the application, said part one will cover biographical information.
“Were you a tenant, a rescue worker? Were you a firefighter, a cop, a sanitation worker, a construction worker? Who did you work for? How many days were you down there? That kind of stuff,” Barasch said.
Part two, he said, will cover the illnesses suffered by the claimant. Part three will be about any loss income experienced because of the illness.
Those covered under the fund include individuals injured in the immediate aftermath of the attacks or those who were sickened while working or living at or near the World Trade Center site in the months following the incident.
While many claimants have hired lawyers to help them through the claims process, the application is designed for individuals to fill it out themselves.
The fund is intended to bring relief to the possibly thousands of first responders, volunteers and others living and working in the area at the time of the attacks who say their illnesses didn’t manifest until the months or years after the incident.
Family members of those who died can also apply.
Dogged by long-term medical problems
Philip Kirschner, who lives in Brooklyn, said he was a volunteer EMT for the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps on September 11.
Since that day, he said he's been suffering from asthma, PTSD, renal cancer and other health issues. He also said his income isn’t enough to cover his medical bills.
“My volunteering, I didn’t get paid for,” Kirschner said. “I wasn’t covered by workers comp really. And my long term job outlook is basically I’m disabled to the point I can’t work and social security only goes so far.”
Attorney Michael Barasch said he’s trying to manage his clients’ expectations.
“What I’ve been telling my clients … is that there aren’t going to be any rewards given out to the early part of the 2012 at the earliest,” Barasch said.
Claimants have until October 3, 2013 to file their applications.