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Even more than a decade after the attack on the World Trade Center many people still live with the pain of what happened. Lives were lost on that day, but they were also lost or compromised in long-term aspects.

A couple of officers who worked at Ground Zero after the attack, as well as a widow of an officer, are finding some closure following their denied disability claims that they filed related to 9/11. After their claims to receive benefits for accidental disability were initially denied, an appeals court recently ruled in favor of the plaintiffs’.

All of the disability claims in these cases involve cancer. The two surviving officers both found that they had cancer after working at Ground Zero, one suffering from rectal cancer and the other from an undisclosed type. The widow involved in the fight for disability benefits lost her husband to lung cancer.

After 9/11 and seeing not just the immediate but long-term effect it had on workers’ lives, “The World Trade Center presumption” was put into law in 2005. Basically, it gives first responders who worked the Ground Zero scene the benefit of the doubt that their illnesses were caused or exacerbated by the conditions of the attack site.

The New York Police Department pension fund rejected the claims based on its theory that the cancers were all the result of preexisting conditions, not of 9/11. They approved benefits for “ordinary disability,” which doesn’t pay as much as “accidental disability.”

Not all illness and injury is so black and white. The WTC presumption law allows a shade of gray to cover the devoted workers whose work in the line of danger has severely compromised their ability to work and support themselves.

Source: Reuters, “New York court says Ground Zero police entitled to disability benefits,” Daniel Wiessner, Dec. 13, 2012

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