September 11 Workers' Task Force Recommends Changes in WTC Disability Law
March 4, 2008
The 9/11 Worker Protection Task Force recently issued an Interim Report that included various recommendations on disabilities related to the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC). The Task Force, made up of 19 individuals representing elected City and State officials and unions as well as physicians with an expertise in occupational medicine, was originally created to ensure that State and City employees who were injured while taking part in the rescue and recovery operation following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, would be eligible for accidental disability benefits.
Following this yearlong assessment, the Task Force determined that the pension and disability systems currently in place may not be able to adequately address issues related to injuries suffered during the WTC rescue and recovery operation. From the perspective of those involved in the review, legislative adjustments may be needed. In particular, the Task Force highlighted the following issues:
- Eliminating the requirement for pre-employment physicals to obtain a disability pension from the NYC Employees' Retirement System
- Including injured workers whose exposures were limited to the first hours following the attack
- Including workers who may have illnesses related to the disaster but did not work in close proximity to the WTC sites
- Allowing workers who qualify for WTC-related disability benefits to file even if they have retired or are currently on non-WTC-related disability
- Including law enforcement officers from outside New York City who were deployed to the WTC sites
- Allowing workers who became disabled after 9/11/03 to file for workers' compensation
As part of its review, the Task Force conducted interviews with people who took part in the rescue and recovery operations, doctors versed in 9/11-related illnesses, government officials and union executives representing 9/11 responders.