By Joseph Straw New York Daily News
WASHINGTON — People who have illnesses that might be linked to the toxic dust created by the collapse of the World Trade Center have until Thursday to register for the $2.8 billion Victims Compensation Fund.
The number of registrations has surged in the past several months as the deadline approached.
Nearly 7,000 people have signed up in the last few days alone, pushing the total number of registrations to more than 40,000, said fund administrator Sheila Birnbaum
“The volume has been staggering,” Birnbaum said.
The deadline applies to anyone diagnosed with an illness covered by the fund when it was established on Oct. 3, 2011.
Ben Chevat, executive director of the nonprofit 9/11 Health Watch, encouraged anyone who’s sick to sign up.
“If you’re at all in doubt, you should register. And all you have to do is log on to vcf.gov. It takes ten minutes; it’s very simple,” Chevat said. “You can decide later if you want to pursue a claim.”
A toll-free helpline is available at 1-855-885-1555. Voicemails left with the helpline through Tuesday were answered within 24 hours, Birnbaum said.
This week’s deadline covers trauma and 15 other varieties of illnesses, most of them respiratory and digestive disorders.
Eligible victims include recovery workers and residents who lived below the line formed by Canal St., East Broadway and Clinton St. through May 20, 2002, as well as those who lived along debris-removal routes.
A second group of people with 9/11-related illnesses — those with certain cancers and other ailments recently added to the list of covered diseases — have at least one more year to register for assistance.