As we approach another anniversary of September 11, we will mark the day with a true feeling of sadness and tremendous loss, as that was a day that changed us all forever. Some of us lost loved ones, some sacrificed their health, and all of us lost our sense of security. Once again we will see the news coverage of those who perished on that fateful day and see the grim procession of officials, family, and friends of those who were lost as they make their way down to Ground Zero.
We will hear the heartbreaking countdown of the more than 2,000 names of those who died read aloud by their loved ones. We will cry with them as we watch their struggles with grief, and we will recall exactly where we were and what we were doing on that dreadful day. We will have trouble remembering what our lives were like before the Twin Towers fell, when the fear of flying was the fear of a plane malfunction or pilot error.
We will have trouble remembering what it was like not removing our shoes at the airport or of restrictions on liquids in our carry-on luggage. Now, almost 13 years later, there still are thousands who have been affected by the aftermath of that horrific day. For those who sacrificed their health for the rescue, recovery and clean up of the World Trade Center for the first year through September 12, 2002, first and foremost I want to continue to extend my gratitude for what you did for our city and our country. Your service will not, and should not, ever be forgotten.
But, I also want to encourage you to preserve your right to Workers’ Compensation. If you are an employee or member of an entity that participates in the New York State Workers’ Compensation system, you should file a WTC-12 form whether or not you were injured, and whether you were a worker or volunteer. This applies to those who worked directly at Ground Zero, or at the Fresh Kills Landfill, on the barges and piers, and at the morgues. Unfortunately, there are slow-starting diseases and cancers that have been known to occur as a result of exposure to the toxins and carcinogens in the rubble and in the air.
As a practitioner in Workers’ Compensation, my office continues to handle new claims regularly for serious medical conditions as a result of harmful exposures. Even if you have no symptoms currently, you still should preserve your future rights. The deadline to file this WTC-12 form is fast approaching – September 11, 2014. While New York State has previously extended the deadline, there is no guarantee that this will happen once again.
Please visit the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board website at www.wcb.ny.gov/WTC12, where you will find a link for the registration form. This form can be filled out on line, but then must be printed out, notarized, and received by the Board by September 11, 2014. The Workers’ Compensation Board has set up a special hot line for any questions you might have regarding these issues. You can call tollfree, 1-855-WTC-2014.
You have a right to protect your future as well as the future of your loved ones. If this doesn’t apply to you, I would ask that you please share this information with all those who might qualify so that no one is left worrying about their future.
Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.
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