9/11 Disability Pensions Advocates Say NYCERS Are Not Serving Them | News of the week


Unions representing some of the 9/11 first responders sidelined by World Trade Center cancers and other living conditions have said the New York City employee retirement system continues to deny the Most of them disability pensions equal to three quarters of the final average salary under a law enacted in 2005 by the government of the day. Georges Pataki.

The post 9/11 death toll from exposure to toxins in the air in and around the WTC site following the collapse of the Twin Towers has now exceeded the nearly 2,700 people killed in attacks and attempts safety. Tens of thousands of rescuers and survivors are currently on treatment for one or more cancers or other conditions related to their exposure that day and in the months of cleanup that followed.

“We are here today because 20 years after September 11, we continue to fight against the city’s pension system and its medical board – led by Dr Joseph Bottner – who continue to deny 70% of services to the city. ’emergency from the FDNY, Corrections, Sanitation and many other unions. and trade under NYCERS their WTC disability pensions, “Gary Smiley, a retired paramedic, told reporters at the event. a September 28 protest outside the system’s headquarters in Brooklyn.

He continued, “These men and women come before these doctors with incredible amounts of medical documents. It is medically and morally incomprehensible that these doctors can say that they are not sick.”

Mr Smiley, who is also the WTC 9/11 Ombudsman for District Council 37, Local 2507, which represents emergency medical services workers, was joined by representatives from the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, the Correction Captains Association, 9/11 WTC first- family members of the commenter and State MP Stacey Pheffer Amato.

“We all cried our eyes on the 20th anniversary of September 11, and the next day everyone resumed normal activities,” said Ms. Amato, a member of the Assembly Government Employees Committee. “Well, I’m telling you it’s not business as usual. I’m here to stand up for families and members who are sick and dying and deserve a pension.”

She recalled that after legislative hearings in 2017 involving similar complaints about NYCERS, a bill was passed to support the mission of the pension system by funding additional medical staff for its medical board with the necessary expertise. to manage what has become a backlog of cases.

But the MP said there were no signs of lasting improvement.

“Something is broken, something isn’t working, and I promise to fix it,” Ms. Amato said. “No one should die without their pension. No one should go nine months without being heard in this building.”

Retired correction captain Phil Rizzo, a participant in the World Trade Center health program, told reporters that 9/11 first responders were often denied disability pensions by NYCERS when they were eligible to disability benefits from Social Security and the State Workers’ Compensation Board.

“On September 11, we represented New York City and the United States government tried to protect us, New York State tried to protect us,” Mr. Rizzo said. “But New York City then, and still now, won’t do it.”

John Feal, a construction trades stakeholder who founded the FealGood Foundation, said after six months of improving the performance of the pension system after legislative hearings four years ago, he has become unresponsive again.

“So let me get this, any 9/11 speaker whose [condition] is certified by the federal government, certified [disabled] by Social Security, then Workers’ Comp, and then come into this circus behind me, then turned down by Dr Bottner? “he asked rhetorically.” We’re talking about putting bread on the table, paying utilities and to give those people who are in their last days, weeks and months, peace of mind and comfort. “

NYCERS officials have challenged the charge of denying 70% of 9/11 disability claims and said they have hired seven doctors to serve on its medical board since 2017, while taking other steps to be more responsive .

They said that as of 2005, when the WTC Disability Benefit was enacted, EMS applicants had obtained approvals 54% of the time.

For Department of Sanitation applicants, approvals were granted 42%, and for Department of Correction employees, approval was granted 43%, according to NYCERS data.

The agency said that “the timeliness of a medical board decision depends on the timely and complete submission of medical records,” and that this year, amid the pandemic, 58% of applicants got decisions in 120 days or less.

“Based on feedback and feedback from members, NYCERS has made significant improvements to the World Trade Center and the disability process,” the agency wrote. These improvements included “reducing the backlog of notices of participation awaiting agency verification from nearly 1,000 in 2017 to 123, despite hundreds of new notices filed since the filing deadline was extended to ‘to September 11, 2022 “.

The pension system said it has also added two WTC review panels to speed up the process and changed the policy to allow members to “simultaneously file multiple types of pension benefits and allow them to start receiving a benefit as soon as they leave. first request is approved, without hampering other pending requests. “

NYCERS has 350,000 registered active and retired members. In addition to municipal employees, its members include those who work for New York City Transit and NYC Health + Hospitals.

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