Americans impacted by 9/11 encouraged to apply for benefits

Most civilian survivors of 9/11 have yet to register with the federal Victims Compensation Fund  — and the clock runs out for some of them July 29, advocates warn.

The deadline affects survivors who were certified by the related World Trade Center Health Program before July 29, 2019, as having a Ground Zero-related illness. It also affects the families of those certified before that date who have died.

Both groups now have till this July 29 to enroll in the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund for potential payouts.

As the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks approach, advocates are waging a campaign to get as many eligible people as possible signed up for both programs.

This year’s July 29 deadline for the VCF doesn’t affect those who were or will be certified by the WTC Health Program after the 2019 date.

That’s because the 2019 VCF Permanent Authorization Act — also known as the James Zadroga Act — permits anyone affected by 9/11 who had yet to register to do so through Oct. 1, 2090.

The law was permanently extended after cancer-stricken retired NYPD Luis Alvarez gave stirring testimony before Congress to do so — just weeks before he died.

But Ken Muller, 61, who was a vice president of IT at Goldman Sachs during 9/11 and employed there until 2009, is urging anyone potentially affected by Sept. 11 to take action as soon as possible.

The twin towers of the World Trade Center billow smoke after hijacked airliners crashed into them early September 11, 2001.
The 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks is approaching.
HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP via Getty Images

He was diagnosed with renal cancer in 2015 and underwent lengthy chemotherapy, qualifying for related benefits only after finding out about the programs from a family member.

“I always thought the federal programs were for the firemen and police, but I’m a victim, too,’’ Muller told The Post.

“It’s critical that Wall Street institutions inform their work force from 2001 and 2002 of the deadly serious medical concerns and [tell the people] that they are all eligible for protections and benefits through the World Trade Center Health Program and 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.”

Overall, about 400,000 people were civilian non-first responders affected by 9/11. That’s roughly 80 percent of the half-million affected people.

A detail of patches on a bag as first responders and their families listen as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony for H.R. 1327, an act to permanently authorize the September 11th victim compensation fund, in the Rose Garden of the White House July 29, 2019 in Washington, DC
Most civilian survivors of 9/11 have yet to register with the federal Victims Compensation Fund.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

But only 7.5 percent of those civilians are registered with the WTC Health Program, in contrast to 80 percent of first responders such as firefighters and police officers, according to the Barasch & McGarry law firm, which represents many 9/11 health registrants.

A national retirees advocacy group is among those pushing to get the word out about the federal programs.

“A lot of the folks employed by Wall Street are now retired,’’ said Ed Stone, executive director of Retirees for Justice. “It’s hard to reach them. The employers don’t have an incentive to reach out to them.

“It’s a shame because retirees could get an illness related to Sept. 11. … The illnesses have a long latency period.”

This US Navy image taken 14 September, 2001 obtained from the US Navy 18 September shows the devastation of the area where New York's World Trade Center once stood.
About 400,000 people were civilian non-first responders affected by 9/11.
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Lawyer Michael Barasch said, “It is absolutely clear that many civilian workers did not know that they are eligible to receive benefits from the World Trade Center Health Program or the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

“I implore everyone to be your neighbors’ advocate and help guide them to obtain the protections and benefits to which they are entitled.’’

Alfred Olivia, who worked at the New York Stock Exchange, said, “Everyone talks about the supposed clean air” at Ground Zero.

“But everyone knew something was up,” Olivia said. “I have come down with three different skin cancers.

“It’s always better to know the monster in front of you and for so many 9/11 survivors, different cancers have been that monster.”

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