By Vicki Rock Daily American
Clyde Ware was assistant chief of the Stoystown Volunteer Fire Co. on September 11, 2001. He was the first firefighter on the scene when United Flight 93 crashed in Stonycreek Township.
“I was on the scene for an endless number of weeks,” he said. “I have breathing and heart problems. I don’t know if it is related to the crash or not.”
He was the first person to arrive Thursday at the Shanksville-Stonycreek school where Laurie Breyer, member services lead, and Melissa Van Orman, health communications specialist, both of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were meeting with first responders.
Shanksville and Pentagon responders are now eligible for benefits through the World Trade Center Health Program.
“It is for people who worked in rescue, recovery and cleanup, which includes people in the community who just showed up to help,” Breyer said. “It is true that there was a dust cloud in New York City that might have carried carcinogens. That is why survivors in New York are also covered. In Shanksville the plane crash resulted in heat and smoke from the burning fuselage, so people may have been exposed to something toxic.”
People who were at the scene for at least four hours sometime between September 11 and Oct. 3, 2001, are eligible for benefits. Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse are also included. After registering for the program, people will complete a telephone medical questionnaire, then be referred to a physician for examination. There are seven clinical centers for people in New York. People who responded to the Shanksville or Pentagon attacks will be referred to a physician within 70 miles of where they live. The program will cover an annual physical, treatment, monitoring and prescription medication. It is currently authorized through 2016, then comes up for reauthorization.
“Even if you don’t need treatment now, it contributes to the research,” Breyer said. “Only certain conditions are now covered, but if five years down the road we find that people are developing other conditions, such as cancer, that could be added. Right now GERD (acid reflux) is very common as are asthma and chronic coughing. If the condition causes you to take steroids, like a lung condition, and because of the steroids you develop diabetes that diabetes care will be covered.”
Van Orman said that they continue to hear from people more than 11 years after the attacks.
“It is important for people to know that impacts from September 11, 2001, are still occurring,” she said. “There are health benefits available to help them.”
The institute sent direct mailings to fire departments, police departments and the FBI and issued press releases to tell people about the meeting. A total of four people attended. If people think they may be eligible but couldn’t attend the meeting, they may either call 1-888-982-4748 or visit www.cdc.gov/wtc online.
There is also a September 11th Victim Compensation Fund administered through the Department of Justice. That is for people who suffered physical harm or families of those who were killed as a result of the terrorist attacks or the debris removal efforts. They must register by Oct. 3. Documents that were distributed about these programs are attached to the online version of this article. Additional information is also available at the website www.vcf.gov or by calling 1-855-885-1555.