New York: 9/11 task force issues report, makes recommendations for '10
The 9/11 Worker Protection Task Force recently issued its annual report, outlining its efforts to provide benefits and better protection for employees injured in the terrorist attacks.
The task force was created in 2005 to ensure that public employees who participated in rescue, recovery and cleanup operations, and who sustained any injury or illness directly related to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center would qualify for accidental disability coverage. During its two years of review, the group found that responders had suffered severe health problems, pension and disability systems had not been configured properly to deal fairly with these after-effects, and that amendments to disability laws were needed. The 19-member task force includes appointees from the governor, World Trade Center worker organizations, state and city comptrollers, the mayor of New York City, and the State Departments of Labor, Health, Civil Service and Budget.
Task force officials said all six legislative changes recommended by the group in its 2008 report were passed by the New York State Legislature. Those recommendations expanded the eligibility criteria in disability law for public employees, in order to:
- Eliminate the requirement for preemployment physicals.
- Include injured workers whose exposures were limited to the first hours of the attack.
- Include workers who suffered significant exposure-related health effects but whose work locations were not within the boundaries for World Trade Center sites set by law.
- Allow workers who have retired or who are on non-World Trade Center-related disability to file for World Trade Center-related disability benefits if they otherwise qualify.
- Include law enforcement officers from outside New York City who were deployed to the World Trade Center sites.
- Acknowledge the extended time limit for workers' compensation claims by allowing workers who became disabled after Sept. 11, 2003 -- the prior time limit for filing a workers' comp claim -- an opportunity to file.
In addition to the report, the task force made several recommendations for the coming year. The group is asking lawmakers to change the definition of "qualifying condition" under the state's workers' comp law from the term "latent condition" to a non-exhaustive list of qualifying conditions based on a similar list from the state's retirement and Social Security laws. In addition, the task forced said the New York State Workers' Compensation Board should contact certain 9/11 claimants whose cases have been closed, advise them of their right to file medical evidence and reopen their claims, and suggest that they may wish to consult an attorney and/or attend publicly funded 9/11 medical clinics. The group said the workers' compensation committee of the task force should remain in place to monitor continuing developments in rescue, recovery and cleanup claims.
July 2, 2009
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