The Times West Virginian

Headline News

September 9, 2013

9/11 responders far from NYC seek compensation

At least 91 people from Pentagon, Pennsylvania crash sites have applied

NEW YORK — They weren’t exposed to anywhere near the same level of ash, grit and fumes, but emergency workers who rushed to the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside on 9/11 are signing up for the same compensation and health benefits being given to New Yorkers who got sick after toiling for months in the toxic ruins of the World Trade Center.

Federal officials say at least 91 people who were at those two crash sites have applied so far for payment from a multibillion-dollar fund for people with an illness related to the attacks. That includes 66 people who fought fires and cleaned up rubble at the Pentagon and 25 who responded to the wreckage of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa.

Those numbers are minuscule compared with the more than 24,000 firefighters, police, construction workers and others who applied for compensation in New York after developing illnesses possibly linked to long hours spent in ground zero’s constant fires and drifts of pulverized concrete and glass.

But the Pentagon or Shanksville applicants are notable because, to date, no medical study or environmental survey has suggested that people who responded to either site were exposed to similar health hazards. They were on the scene for days rather than months. And there have been no reports of a strange rash of illnesses. Responders at those sites were given eligibility by Congress mostly out of a sense of fairness, without any clear indication that anyone was sick.  

A separate program administered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health expects as many as 1,500 Virginia and Pennsylvania responders to apply for free health monitoring and treatment. So far, just 19 have applied.

The trickle of people signing up for compensation includes Alexandria Fire Department Capt. Scott Quintana, who dug through feet of scorched rubble at the Pentagon to find bodies in 2001. He was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a type of cancer, in 2010.

Research has suggested that the genetic mutation that causes his type of cancer might be triggered by some environmental toxins. But even Quintana acknowledged it’s unlikely his leukemia was caused solely by the few days he spent at the Pentagon.

“It’s part of a long exposure to triggers that create this in your body,” Quintana said. “Could I absolutely tie it to 9/11? Absolutely not. Can I tie it to my career in the fire service? Yes.”

What that means for his compensation claim isn’t entirely clear.

“If they are making an award, I’ll take it. If they don’t, I’m not going to cry about it,” Quintana said, adding that his $8,000-per-month chemotherapy bill is already covered by insurance, thanks to a Virginia law that presumes that any firefighter diagnosed with cancer got it from an on-the-job exposure.

No such presumption exists for people applying to the victim compensation fund. The fund’s special master, Shelia Birnbaum, said claims coming in from Pentagon and Shanksville responders have yet to be reviewed, so she couldn’t say how many might be granted.

“It has to be an injury that is related to your exposure at that site,” she said. That means that applicants, to start with, will need to have a doctor fill out a form verifying that their illness was caused, or worsened, by a harmful exposure during the 9/11 rescue and recovery.

Initially, compensation was only available for a limited list of health conditions linked to the unique blend of toxins and caustic agents in the trade center dust, most notably respiratory illnesses. But the program has since been expanded to include anyone suffering from many common types of cancer, which has raised the possibility that the $2.78 billion appropriated for the program won’t be enough to cover claims.

As of late August, the pool of 24,000 applicants included 967 cancer claims.

Birnbaum said she anticipated getting some cancer claims from the Pennsylvania and Virginia sites but was concerned about authorizing big payouts for common illnesses that might be unrelated to the terror attacks.

Ted Shaffer, former chief of the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Company, who was on duty on 9/11, said he was shocked anyone filed a claim over the response to Flight 93, saying the crash scene struck him as no more dangerous than a regular building or vehicle fire.

“I find it difficult to believe that any permanent, long-lasting injury came from this,” he said, adding: “Nobody that I know of had any health problems.”

At outreach meetings in recent weeks, NIOSH officials and health advocates suggested that responders at least enroll in the health program as a precaution, even if they are currently healthy.

That logic appealed to former Arlington County Fire Department battalion chief James Daugherty, who said he got more than the usual dose of smoke at the Pentagon and then developed a persistent cough a month or so later. He still uses an inhaler today.

“It could be a coincidence. But I never had any breathing problems before,” he said.

“We were nothing compared to what happened in New York. We were done in two weeks. Those guys were down there in that stuff for months,” he said. But, he added, a person would be “crazy” not to protect themselves by enrolling in the health program.

“Who knows what’s going to happen down the road?” he said. “What happens if we all end up with mesothelioma in five or 10 years?”

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • House approves bill to boost child tax credit for some

    More families with higher incomes could claim the popular child tax credit under a bill that won approval Friday in the House. But in a dispute that divides Republicans and Democrats, millions of the poorest low-income families would still lose the credit in 2018, when enhancements championed by President Barack Obama are set to expire.

    July 26, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia firing across border into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014

  • U.N. school in Gaza in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 25, 2014

  • Jet with 116 on board crashes in Mali

    An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighboring Burkina Faso — the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

    July 25, 2014

  • Two more planes with Ukraine bodies arrive in Netherlands

    Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

    July 25, 2014

  • Obama demands ‘economic patriotism’

    Staking out a populist stand ahead of the midterm elections, President Barack Obama on Thursday demanded “economic patriotism” from U.S. corporations that use legal means to avoid U.S. taxes through overseas mergers.
    “I don’t care if it’s legal,” Obama declared. “It’s wrong.”

    July 24, 2014

  • Airline disasters come in a cluster

    Nearly 300 passengers perish when their plane is shot out of the sky. Airlines suspend flights to Israel’s largest airport after rocket attacks. Two airliners crash during storms. Aviation has suffered one of its worst weeks in memory, a cluster of disasters spanning three continents.

    July 24, 2014

  • Opponents: Evidence against lethal injection

    The nation’s third botched execution in six months offers more evidence for the courts that lethal injection carries too many risks and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, death-row lawyers and other opponents said Thursday.

    July 24, 2014

  • Ancient Animal Dig.jpg Wyoming cave with fossil secrets to be excavated

    For the first time in three decades, scientists are about to revisit one of North America’s most remarkable troves of ancient fossils: the bones of tens of thousands of animals piled at least 30 feet deep at the bottom of a sinkhole-type cave.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bodies of Malaysian jet victims solemnly returned to Dutch soil

    Victims of the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine returned at last Wednesday to Dutch soil in 40 wooden coffins, solemnly and gently carried to 40 identical hearses, flags at half-staff flapping in the wind.

    July 24, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads