A Brooklyn woman suffering from uterine cancer has received a first-of-its-kind award from the 9/11 victim compensation fund — coming after years of advocacy that finally led to the disease being added to the list of recognized Sept. 11-related illnesses.
The East Flatbush woman, who wished to remain anonymous, worked in Lower Manhattan on and after the 2001 terror attack, and was granted an expedited monetary award due to the terminal nature of her cancer, according to her lawyers.
The 62-year-old’s son said the “surreal” expedition of the approximately $250,000 award offers “some peace of mind” during the current extraordinarily difficult times.
He said that his family were encouraged to apply to the VCF by the woman’s boss who made a claim before passing away last year.
“It doesn’t hurt to try. Especially when you know that you were in you were exposed,” he said of the fund, noting that many other survivors who were not first responders are unaware they are eligible for the benefits.
Federal authorities added all types of uterine cancer, including endometrial cancer, to the list of WTC-Related Health Conditions on Jan. 18.
Sara Director, a partner at Barasch & McGarry who handles VCF claims, said the inclusion was “long overdue”.
As of Feb. 28, over $11.1 billion in compensation has been awarded to more than 50,000 survivors who have been harmed because of their exposure to 9/11-related toxins, according to the Department of Justice.
New York City victims and first responders also have access to free medical care through the World Trade Center Health Program.
Since the creation of the WTC Health Program and the 9/11 VCF in 2011, initial medical studies did not have enough women in them and uterine cancers were not on the agenda, according to Director.
“There was a lot of gratitude to the scientific and medical community for finally making the connection but we felt it was long overdue, and hundreds, if not thousands of women have been ignored who are suffering from uterine and endometrial cancer due to their 9/11 exposure,” said Director.
“I think that nobody imagined the vast amount of people that were going to get sick from 9/11. When the first medical studies were done, they assumed it was just the people working on the pile. They did not take into consideration that the dust was traveling,” she said.
“This money can be life changing to victims, if they don’t have health insurance, the health programme will also provide medical care and treatments. So, it can be life saving and life changing.”
Barasch & McGarry said they currently represent some 200 women with 9/11-related uterine or endometrial cancers, and estimate that the number of women affected is “highly understated” given there are many 9/11 victims who haven’t filed claims because they’re unaware of the program.
“Unfortunately, every day, more and more women are coming forward after making the connection between their uterine/endometrial cancer and their exposure,” said Director who added that Barasch & McGarry’s goal is to spread the word about the VCF.
“If you were exposed, and you are found eligible for your illness, you rightfully are entitled to compensation. It’s not hurting someone else because you make the claim,” she added.
Before filing a claim with the VCF, individuals must first be certified by the WTC Health Program.
Director urged those who are currently ill or individuals who meet the threshold for applying to document proof of their presence in the 9/11 exposure zone between Sept. 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002.
“There’s different ways to prove your presence and for some people, it’s quite easy and then there are certainly a lot of people for whom it is very difficult to prove their presence 21 years later,” she said. “My firm spends an incredible amount of time investigating and trying to find witnesses for our clients.”