This past week marked the one-year anniversary of the reauthorization of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.
The fund guarantees that 9/11 first responders and survivors poisoned by Ground Zero toxins and their families will have access to health care and compensation for the rest of their lives.
“That money coming in the settlement is definitely huge” said Anthony Mazariello, a lifelong Bronx resident and FDNY firefighter who responded on 9/11 and has since been diagnosed with thyroid cancer as a result of his exposure to Ground Zero toxins. “Nothing can make up for your own life.”
These protections are particularly important now because Ground Zero-related diseases, including 68 types of cancer and dozens of respiratory ailments, leave 9/11 community members uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19.
On July 29, 2019, the president signed into law The Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund. The VCF Permanent Authorization Act extends the VCF’s claim filing deadline from Dec. 18, to Oct. 1, 2090 and appropriates such funds as may be necessary to pay all approved claims.
Under the Act, the VCF is required to issue payments to any claimants who were impacted by the reductions in order to make up the difference between the reduced award and the unreduced value that would have been awarded but for the reductions.
Mazariello, 44, of Pelham Parkway, was an EMT on 9/11 and just put his papers in to retire with the FDNY. In addition to thyroid cancer, he also recently had a mass removed from his testes due to 9/11.
He explained that if weren’t for the compensation fund, he would be buried in debt. Mazariello stressed that it’s important for anyone who was near the towers on 9/11 to get checked out.
“Even if there’s a chance to qualify, you should look into it,” he said. “Unfortunately some of the conditions come years later.”
Now that he’s on the mend, he plans to enjoy life and spend time with his wife Sandy and son Matthew.
Michael Barasch of Barasch McGarry is a lawyer, who represents 20,000 first responders and survivors. According to Barasch, the job is not easy and is often emotionally draining. But in the long run, it is gratifying to know that he and his colleagues are helping thousands find a way to pay their medical bills.
“It’s a financial security for people who are dying,” he said. “I want people to know it’s not too late.”
Barasch explained that most people do not realize that the compensation fund does not just apply to first responders but also the thousands of downtown workers and residents from Sept. 11.
Anyone who was near the towers should get checked to see if they have a 9/11 related disease, he commented.
“I can’t imagine another area of law that I could be involved in that’s helped so many people,” he said. “We take this personally. I’m so lucky to be able to do what I do.”