Governor Paterson Introduces Legislation to Expand 9/11 Benefits
June 13, 2008
New York Governor David Paterson recently introduced legislation that would expand disability benefits to City and State employees injured while responding to the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC). The new legislation is based on recommendations made in March by the September 11th Worker Protection Task Force. Under the proposed legislation, disability retirement benefits would be available to more first responders than are currently covered by State law. In addition, the deadline to register for Workers' Compensation and disability would be extended to September 11, 2010.
This bill expands the list of first responders who can file for benefits to include the following.
- Non-uniformed first responders not required to
undergo a pre-employment physical examination
- First responders who worked for any amount of time in
the first 48 hours after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001
- Vested members of a public pension system who stopped
working prior to filing a claim
- Workers who became disabled more than two years after
the WTC disaster but before the Workers' Compensation Law was extended to
- 911 dispatchers
- Emergency vehicle radio repair mechanics
- State and county correction officers and deputy sheriffs
Because many non-uniformed City and State employees who took part in the rescue and recovery operation at Ground Zero were not required to undergo pre-employment physicals, this requirement was dropped from the bill introduced by Governor Paterson. Instead, employees can obtain a disability pension by providing access to medical records and demonstrating the lack of any pre-existing conditions prior to September 11, 2001. The geographic boundaries for filing a disability claim have also been expanded beyond four WTC sites to include employees who worked in emergency vehicle garages and emergency call centers.
Lastly, the law now requires that individuals who file disability claims must have worked for at least 40 hours in the rescue and recovery operation following the WTC disaster. The new legislation withdraws this requirement for responders who worked at Ground Zero in the first 48 hours after the collapse of the WTC because the Task Force gathered medical evidence demonstrating that early arrival at the site increased the health risks associated with WTC exposure.