- Egypt rights center raided, 2 Mubaraks acquitted
- New Mexico Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage constitutional
- Blame Bush: 5 years later, that’s still the mantra, pollsters find
- Dutch prostitutes demand same retirement benefits as soccer stars
- John McCain to Harry Reid: I’ll ‘kick the crap’ out of you
- Dogs that talk: Researchers seek $10K for ‘No More Woof’ technology
- 1,000 firefighters called to battle stubborn Big Sur wildfire
- Black Friday brouhaha: Millions of Target shoppers hit by credit card theft
- Britain orders airplane to rescue citizens from violent South Sudan
- Mega Millions winner emerges as Georgia mom, in ‘disbelief’
Tough task for those compensating ill 9/11 workers
Question of the Day
NEW YORK (AP) - Sheila Birnbaum is known in legal circles across New York as the “queen of torts” for her prowess in sorting out complicated cases. But she may be up against her most daunting task to date.
Since Attorney General Eric Holder appointed her special master of a Sept. 11 victims’ compensation fund in May 2011, Birnbaum has been responsible for evenhandedly distributing $2.7 billion to ground zero responders and others who became ill after being exposed to dust and ash from the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center.
The problem is, she doesn’t quite know how many people will be eligible for compensation.
“We haven’t yet received the avalanche of claims that might have been expected,” she said, noting that only about 300 people have filed eligibility forms so far. The fund will ultimately receive thousands of applications, she predicts.
Nearly two years after President Barack Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act into law, about 40,000 responders and survivors receive monitoring and 20,000 get treatment for illnesses as part of the World Trade Center Health Program _ one of the law’s two components. But the other, Birnbaum’s fund compensating the same kind of people for economic losses, hasn’t been as quick to get off the ground.
It’s not a matter of bureaucratic foot-dragging, but rather an illustration of the complexities of key legislation born of the attacks that took place 11 years ago next week.
“This is a lot more complicated than meets the eye,” said Birnbaum, an attorney.
With time still left to submit claims, some people are holding out in the event that they become sick in the near future. Others are waiting until the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health officially adds 14 broad categories of cancer to the list of conditions covered by the fund.
The national institute’s director, Dr. John Howard, said in June that it planned to expand coverage to include scores of cancer types. An institute spokeswoman would not give a specific date for the announcement, although Birnbaum said she anticipates it this month.
Recently diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma, 55-year-old Brian Casse hopes he can secure money from the fund to support his wife and children in case he takes a turn for the worst. Casse, a retired firefighter who helped clear away the mountain of rubble at ground zero, believes there’s little doubt his work at the site is responsible for his illness.
“You’ve got people in this city who went down there and did what we had to do. And a lot of us got sick because of it,” Casse said. “To make us now fight for this money, it’s not right. In the grand scheme of things, this money’s a drop in the bucket.”
Initially, the Zadroga Act _ named for police Detective James Zadroga, who died at age 34 after working at ground zero _ included only a short list of illnesses that qualified for compensation. Cancer was excluded because of a lack of scientific evidence linking any form of the disease to conditions in the debris pile.
“To me, it’s common sense. If you breathe in toxic fumes, you’re going to get cancer,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Manhattan Democrat who helped author the bill.
But even Maloney conceded that it is difficult to find hard data proving the connection between cancer and the dust at ground zero. That’s why in crafting the Zadroga Act, lawmakers were careful to include mechanisms that would allow for illnesses to be added based on new scientific research.
An inclusion of cancer on the list will likely encourage more people to file claims. Applicants will have to provide evidence of their diagnosis and time spent at ground zero, though they do not need to enroll in the health program to receive compensation. Birnbaum’s staff, which includes 50 people but is expected to grow, will then determine whether claimants are eligible.
By Michael P. Orsi
Edward Snowden should declare his patriotism in court
- Citing 'unfair system,' Obama commutes sentences for 8 crack offenders
- Homeland Security helps smuggle illegal immigrant children into the U.S.
- Gov't wasted $30 billion on 'pillownauts,' crystal goblets -- buying human urine!
- Bill Gates: The Secret Santa disguised as a 'friendly fellow' on Reddit
- Armed response, not restrictive gun laws, brought swift end to school shooting
- Obamacare 'pajamas boy' gets roundly mocked
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Special ops vets slam military benefit cuts
- Duck Dynasty Phil Robertson suspended indefinitely for gay quip
- BOLTON: Nero in the White House
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Southern Fried Politics from the Lens of a Persian-American Millennial
All of the world’s problems, solved on your back porch
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow