Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Compensating Ill 9/11 Workers Proves a Tough Task

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Compensating Ill 9/11 Workers Proves a Tough Task

Article excerpt

NEW YORK... 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 only about 300 people have filed eligibility forms so far. The fund ultimately will 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 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. …

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