Tag Archives: September 11

Action Needed To Ensure Sick 9/11 First Responders Receive Benefits

Animal Control Officer Diane DiGiacomo

Today’s post comes from guest author Catherine Stanton, from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

A couple weeks ago, the Workers’ Compensation community was stunned over the outcome of the case of Animal Control Officer Diane DiGiacomo who developed cancer from exposure to toxins in the air after 9/11. Diane’s job was to search for and rescue pets near Ground Zero when many of the buildings surrounding the area were either evacuated or abandoned for weeks after the terrorist attack. 

Diane had filed a Workers’ Compensation claim after being diagnosed with breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain. The judge ruled that she was not entitled to New York State Workers’ Compensation benefits because she had not filed a timely claim. At the time of the ruling, Diane was bedridden and weighed a mere 60 pounds. Tragically, four days after the decision, she died as a result of her cancer. While my firm did not represent her, Diane’s tragic story touched many of us in the industry, whether as advocates for the injured worker or as defense counsel. What makes this case particularly sad is that the judge noted it was clear from the medical evidence that the cancer developed at least in part due to her exposure to the toxins in the air. Unfortunately, Diane was not entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits because the deadline to register had passed.   

In order to be able to obtain Workers’ Compensation benefits for exposure after the 9/11 attacks, those who participated in the rescue, recovery, and clean up operations had to file a TWC-12 registration form prior to the current deadline of September 11, 2014. You did not have to actually be sick to file this form, but it preserved your rights if you worked in the area to file a claim later if you were found to be sick. It should be noted that the deadline has been extended twice because many of the illnesses such as cancer are slow starting and do not manifest themselves until many years after final exposure to toxins. The New York State Legislature has not extended this deadline again, at least as of this date.  

Officer DiGiacomo did not file her claim until sometime after September 11, 2014, because she was not actually diagnosed with cancer until after this date. According to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board website, as of September 11, 2011, there were close to 49,000 WTC- 12 forms filed; however, hundreds or even thousands more may have been at the site doing rescue, recovery, and clean up and have not registered precisely because they were not sick as of the deadline or they didn’t know they had 9/11-related medical conditions. Perhaps it was based on their lack of understanding of the law or the opinion of some that they did not want to register because they somehow felt they would be taking benefits away from those who were already ill. Whatever the reason, it is imperative that the deadline once again be extended so that those who are currently ill, or become ill, have the full protection of the law.  

A bill introduced in the New York State Assembly by Assemblyman Peter J. Abbate, Jr., and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder to extend the deadline to September 11, 2017, is still sitting in Committee. While Officer DiGiacomo did not live long enough to see the deadline extended, it is not too late to compensate her son and the rest of her family. Let’s make sure that those who helped get our city back on its feet are not forgotten.

 

Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.

Considering Priorities on Patriot Day

Today’s post comes from guest author Emily Wray Stander, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

“Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?” Alan Jackson, “Where Were You”

Have you heard that tune? While I don’t remember all the words, the internets can help with that, and the words definitely provoke some strong feelings and memories.

Today is Patriot Day. For so many people on Sept. 11, 2001, the change was swift and often tragic. Many people, all over the United States, are still living the ramifications of that day, whether directly or indirectly.

Life changes all the time, in an instant, for a friend, a family, or a community, even New York City. So what (and who) are your priorities?

While at a family gathering recently in small-town Nebraska, I found myself reflecting on priorities and how important it is to appreciate loved ones, both family and friends. It seems like Patriot Day also give a chance for entertaining such thoughts.

We were at a town that seems idyllic, but I’m sure people have their challenges and issues, as happens everywhere. This is also a town that was hit very hard by winds and baseball-sized hail earlier in the summer. No tornadoes, but there was plenty of damage. Many windows are still boarded up, and seeing people on roofs is a regular occurrence as homes are still being repaired.

During our visit, the scaffolding attached (or next to) to the house across the street collapsed. The two people on the roof (one of whom was the homeowner) were there amid the rubble, on the ground. They were at the highest point of the old house, so they both fell a good 20 feet. The volunteer fire department brought both of the town’s ambulances. The first responders, including a town policeman, were efficient and took great care in loading the gentlemen onto backboards and transporting them to the hospital.

Time can do funny things in a situation like that. Although 911 was called quickly and the policeman was there very fast, it seemed like it took forever for ambulances to arrive, although it really wasn’t very long, and it was very interesting to see the volunteer firefighters/EMTs meet the ambulances at the site for efficiency. All these vehicles descended at the house, and each first responder jumped out of his or her vehicle (you know you’re in a small town when …). They seemed to do a well-rehearsed dance, and you could see the hard work, concern and speed needed. We learned later that the two most likely would survive, but the extent of the damage they face is unknown, as each man on the roof broke his back.

Although I don’t know the people hurt, just as I didn’t personally know anyone in the Sept. 11 tragedy, it is still easy to empathize and think about the “what ifs.”

But it’s most important to face the new reality and call, write and hug loved ones. Because events and tragedy, whether personal or even nationwide, often elicit strong emotions in those who experience them. However, it’s the action afterwards that counts.

Please take that “where were you then” moment, think about it in the best way you know how, and then use it to provide a positive memorable moment for someone close to you. Because who are your priorities?

Happy Patriot Day.

9/11 Fund Starts Making Payments To Victims

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

The Zadroga 9/11 Victims Claim Fund has started to make payments to victims of the World Trade Center attack. First Responders andthose who lived or worked in the immediate geographical site near “ground zero” may be entitled to the payment of benenfits for illness and injuries that they suffer as a result of the terrorist attack.

Those eligible include, individuals present at  a 9/11 crash site at the time of or in the immediate aftermath, who suffer physical harm as a result of the crashes or debris removal. Also the personal representatives of individuals who were present at a 9/11 crash site, who died as a result of the crashes or debris removal, are eligible to file claims.

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