Right after the devastating 9/11 terrorist attack, James Zadroga, an NYPD officer, spent over 450 hours being part of the rescue team at the World Trade Center (WTC). Although he was a non-smoker with no prior history of respiratory conditions, the officer developed a cough weeks later. Within months, his cough worsened, and he eventually experienced shortness of breath.

The NYPD medical board later confirmed that his health condition had been due to complications from the pollutants inhaled after the 9/11 attack. Because of this, James Zadroga won a one million dollar settlement in 2004.

He subsequently retired from active duty in 2004 following a successful application for permanent disability. Zadroga's condition and story inspired an act called The James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act, which is commonly known as the Zadroga Act.

The act established two foundations, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) and the WTC Health Program. You can learn more about the fund from here.

What Is The Zadroga Act?

The Zadroga Act is a United States law that grants financial assistance and health monitoring services to survivors, first responders, and volunteers of the 9/11 terrorist attack. As mentioned earlier, the act was named after James Zadroga, whose respiratory condition was the first to be officially connected to the 9/11 attack.

The Victim Compensation Fund

The victim compensation fund (VCF) is also known as the Zadroga fund. It was set up in 2001 to compensate the victims of the 9/11 attack. The fund was initially meant to run from December 2001 to December 2003.

The VCF offers settlement to those who suffered physical harm or were killed during the 9/11 attack. The fund also covers those who suffered health problems after exposure to the debris and fumes on ground zero. The fund isn’t only limited to responders but also includes those who lived or worked near the exposure zone.

In its two-year operation, the VCF expended over USD$7 billion on 2,600 injured people and over 2,500 representatives of those killed during the attacks.

Summary Of The Zadroga Act

Former US President Barack Obama signed the James Zadroga Act of 2010 on January 2, 2011. The act established a program to offer eligible individuals health monitoring and medical treatment assistance. It also identified beneficiaries, established filing deadlines, and set limits on the total payable award.

Although the VCF was initially intended to run for just two years, it was authorised to run for another five years. The act was authorised again in 2015 and finally in 2019.

Who Is Eligible Under The Zadroga Act?

Victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack are eligible to file a claim. Alternatively, their representative, parent, or guardian can file a claim on their behalf.

What Are The Requirements?

Under the Zadroga Act, one should meet three primary conditions to be eligible for benefits from the VCF. These are the following:

1. Location

It must be proven that the victim was within the New York City (NYC) Exposure Zone. This includes specific NYC neighbourhoods like Tribeca, SoHo, Chinatown, Bowling Green, and Lower East Side. The exposure zone also includes routes to remove debris from the attack site. Victims at or around other 9/11 areas, including the Flight 93 crash site and Pentagon, also qualify.

2. Date

Victims must also ascertain that they were within the NYC Exposure Zone between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002. To prove that a victim was indeed within the exposure zone during the dates mentioned above, any of the following documents could be presented:
  • Legal affidavits attesting to a victim’s presence in the NYC Exposure Zone during the applicable dates.
  • Employment records showing work dates, location, etc.
  • School records indicate attendance during the applicable time frame.
  • Instructions or confirmation of tasks conducted within the NYC Exposure Zone.
  • Utility bills, mortgage, or leases confirming a victim’s workplace or residence within the NYC Exposure Zone during the required dates.
  • Medical records proving treatment of injuries suffered at the terrorist attack site.

3. Condition

To be eligible, a victim must have suffered health conditions covered under the act. The state must also be linked to the 9/11 attack. In other words, it must be proven that the disease was due to the toxic fumes, debris, and pollutants released into the atmosphere during the tragedy. The covered conditions include:
  • Cancer
  • Acute traumatic injury
  • Aerodigestive disorders
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Mental health conditions
If the WTC Health Program has already confirmed that a claimant’s physical conditions or injuries were due to exposure from the 9/11 tragedy, then there’s no need for further proof.

In Summary

Under the Zadroga Act, you or a loved one can be compensated for medical conditions or injuries from the debris and toxic chemical fumes produced during the 9/11 attack. You must, however, register with the VCF on or before October 1, 2090, before filing a claim. Registration can be online or by phone. For more information, you may consult a victim compensation fund lawyer who can guide you through the process.