March 12, 2010

Post-9/11 Workers Earn Compensation Settlement

The more than 10,000 police officers, firefighters, and construction personnel who suffered health problems due to their work in the days following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will receive total compensation of more than $650 million, according to the terms of a Thursday settlement.

Many of those who were early responders to the site of the World Trade Center attacks had sued the city for damages after many fell ill due to the toxins found at Ground Zero. Federal funds totaling $1 billion had been used to establish the WTC Captive Insurance Company to deal with medical issues for those who were involved in the clean-up and restoration efforts. Thursday's compensation settlements will be paid out from that fund.

WTC Captive Insurance President Christine LaSala called the settlement "fair under difficult and complicated circumstances" in an interview with the AFP. "This agreement enables workers and volunteers claiming injury from the WTC site operations to obtain compensation commensurate with the nature of their injuries and the strength of their claims, while offering added protection against possible future illness."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg added, "The resolution of the World Trade Center litigation will allow the first responders and workers to be compensated for injuries suffered following their work at Ground Zero...Since September 11th, the city has moved aggressively to provide medical treatment to those who were present at Ground Zero, and we will continue our commitment to treatment and monitoring."

Some individuals, however, are skeptical about the timing of the settlement. The WTC Captive Insurance Company was founded in 2003, and Kenny Specht, a former firefighter who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2008, is among those wondering why it took so long for the city to settle.

"We have been pushing members of Congress to pass the September 11th Health and Compensation Act which would have let 5.4 billion dollars for compensation," Specht told CNN. "My question to the city is why didn't they settle these lawsuits earlier than they have now?...I hope this settlement was, indeed, done the right way and I hope it was done with people's health, safety and future in mind, to be honest with you, and not the bottom dollar."


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