On November 13, 2013, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed significant protections for World Trade Center workers into the Workers’ Compensation Law under Article 8-A. The legislation extends and enhances workers’ compensation eligibility and benefits for World Trade Center workers. Most notably, the legislation reopens the World Trade Center Registry; extends the deadline period for filing Form WTC-12, Registration of Participation in World Trade Center Rescue, Recovery and/or Clean-up Operations, with a deadline to September 11, 2014; reopens previously time-barred World Trade Center claims and considers them timely; and adds qualifying conditions to the law.
Reopening of Registry and Extension of Filing Period for Form WTC-12
The World Trade Center Registry, which preserves workers’ compensation rights for those who performed rescue, recovery, and clean-up operations after the World Trade Center attacks, is now reopened and will remain open until September 11, 2014. Previously, any claims for which the associated Form WTC-12 was received after September 13, 2010 were time-barred. Those workers were not entitled to benefits. These claims will now be reopened and considered timely.
Workers who participated in the rescue, recovery, and clean-up operations of the World Trade Center between September 11, 2001 and September 11, 2002, should promptly register their service participation with the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board (Board). This registration will preserve workers’ rights to future benefits, should they ever be needed. Employed and volunteer workers should file a notarized Form WTC-12 prior to September 11, 2014, whether they were injured or not. Eligible work includes duty at Ground Zero, the Fresh Kills Landfill, duty on the barges and piers, and the morgues. Paid workers and volunteers covered under the New York State workers’ compensation system are eligible. The filing of the registration Form WTC-12 does NOT constitute the filing of a claim. The filing of the sworn statement does, however, extend the time to preserve the workers’ right to file a claim. Instructions are provided on the Form WTC-12 regarding the filing of a claim. Specifically, when the time comes to file a claim, an injured worker or volunteer should submit Form C-3, Employee Claim, for compensation or Form WTCVol-3, World Trade Center Volunteer’s Claim for Compensation, to the Board.
A completed Form WTC-12 can be submitted to any Board office. Completed forms must be received at any Board office by September 11, 2014. A postmark by this date is not sufficient. Workers can obtain Form WTC-12 from any Board office or from the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board website. These changes are included in Workers’ Compensation Law § 162.
Previously Time-barred World Trade Center Claims
As stated earlier, any Form WTC-12 filings that were received after the previous original September 13, 2010 deadline are now considered timely. (The deadline was stated in Article 8-A as September 11, 2010, a Saturday; however, the Board accepted filings that arrived on Monday, September 13, 2010, as timely.)
The Board will review its files to locate any World Trade Center claims previously disallowed as untimely under Workers’ Compensation Law §§ 18 or 28, or from failure to file a timely Form WTC-12. The Board will, under its own initiative, now allow those particular World Trade Center claims and consider them timely. Workers whose Form WTC-12 were previously deemed untimely will be notified that their cases are no longer time-barred and instructed on how to obtain benefits should they become injured or ill. While the Board will be pro-actively checking its own files and providing notice to claimants, claimants should feel free to contact the Board, so that the Board may provide specific information regarding the reconsideration process. All parties will be notified that their cases are being reopened as their cases are brought forward for consideration. While it is not necessary for claimants to file reopen or hearing requests, the Board wishes to make workers aware that this process is now being initiated.
These changes are in Workers’ Compensation Law §§ 165 and 168.
Article 8-A now contains a new list of qualifying health conditions resulting from hazardous exposure for World Trade Center workers who participated in rescue, recovery, or clean-up operations. The categories are:
- Diseases of the upper respiratory tract and mucosae, including conditions such as conjunctivitis, rhinitis, sinusitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, vocal cord disease, upper airway hyper-reactivity, and tracheo-bronchitis, or a combination;
- Diseases of the lower respiratory tract, including but not limited to, bronchitis, asthma, reactive airway dysfunction syndrome, and different types of pneumonitis, such as hypersensitivity, granulomatous, or eosinophilic;
- Diseases of the gastroesophageal tract, including esophagitis and reflux disease, either acute or chronic, caused by exposure or aggravated by exposure;
- any combination of such conditions; and
- New-onset diseases that develop in the future or result from exposure in the future, including cancer, COPD, asbestos-related diseases, heavy metal poisoning, musculoskeletal disease and chronic psychological disease.
These changes are in Workers’ Compensation Law § 161(3).
The Board is committed to ensuring all World Trade Center workers receive the benefits and protections they are accorded under the law. To help achieve this, the Board is in the process of expanding our communication and outreach to World Trade Center workers. Our initiatives include:
- Translating Form WTC-12 into the seven common languages other than English, designated by the Board’s Language Access Plan;
- Reopening a dedicated phone line for World Trade Center workers, 1-855-WTC-2014 (1-855-982-2014);
- Adding a dedicated page to the Board website for World Trade Center workers, www.wcb.ny.gov/WTC-12;
- Using traditional and social media to reach World Trade Center workers;
- Planning outreach to workers and groups representing World Trade Center workers; and
- Mailing letters to previous untimely filers.
The Board’s dedicated World Trade Center work groups and hearing parts have functioned continuously since September, 2001.