One person who ran toward ground zero right after the September 11th terrorist attacks is finally able to take some comfort in the anniversary. WAER’s Chris Bolt reports on the fight one volunteer went through to get health benefits.
Certainly one of the stories of the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and the World Trade Center collapse was the health effects suffered by those trying to help at ground zero.
"The effects were horrific on my work life, said volunteer Jamie Hazan. "I was a vibrant guy, very entrepreneurial. The effects, especially the breathing didn’t allow me to get through my days.”
Jamie Hazan immediately went to the scene to help as a volunteer…but dust and toxins resulted in respiratory problems.
“The most upsetting for me was on a ski slope, because I used to love to downhill ski. I realized I no longer had the energy to ski down a mountain without stopping in 10 feet because I was completely exhausted.”
He spent a year proving he was at ground zero and finally won workers comp benefits…only to have them overturned. Albany Law School Professor Michael Hutter couldn’t understand it.
“The position that the workers compensation board was maintaining was completely arbitrary. They had promulgated this rule that in order to qualify for benefits, you had to be working with a sponsored organization.”
Hutter took on the appeal of the decision pro-bono…and eventually won.
"These people put their life on the line and any harm that they suffered, they should be eligible for benefits. Congress said, ‘ on behalf of a grateful nation, we are now going to help you, award people who have been injured.’”
The decision just a few weeks ago certainly helps Jamie Hazan with some income and medical care. …but goes beyond.
“Because of what Professor Hutter did, thousands of people are now eligible to go get benefits.”
Those who might want to seek health benefits from the tragedy 13 years ago have to file a claim by a deadline this week.