9/11 fund makes 1st payments to sick responders

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 29, 2013 at 3:43 pm •  Published: January 29, 2013
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NEW YORK (AP) — A special fund set up by Congress to compensate people who got sick after being exposed to toxic World Trade Center dust following Sept. 11 is making its first round of payments, with the initial payouts going to a group of 15 first responders with respiratory problems.

The administrator who oversees the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, Sheila Birnbaum, announced Tuesday that the fund was finally poised to process payouts, after a deliberate start in which officials figured out how the program would work and lawyers pieced together documentation for at least 16,000 applications.

The first round of payments, most of which have been offered to firefighters, range from $10,000 to a high of $1.5 million.

Birnbaum declined to identify the recipients by name or say much about their illnesses, citing privacy concerns. She said their health problems range from "serious" to "not so serious," and that the people getting the larger awards tended to be younger, and to have suffered more severe economic losses.

The people offered lower amounts include some who have already received other compensation for their illnesses, including shares of a civil settlement for thousands of firefighters, police officers and construction workers who had sued over the lack of protective equipment at ground zero.

None of the people in the initial group had cancer, and all are still living, Birnbaum said.

"We think we are off to a good start, and with the help of the lawyers and the claimants, we will be able to come up with a lot more awards in the coming months," she said.

It will be years, though, before any applicants see the bulk of their money, or even know for certain how much they will get.

Officials don't yet know how many people will apply for aid from the $2.78 billion fund, or how ill they will be. That means they can't yet calculate each person's share. So for now, applicants are getting only 10 percent of their award. The remainder won't be paid until after the fund closes to new applicants in 2016.

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