TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey firefighters who contracted illnesses from volunteering at ground zero on 9/11 won’t receive the health benefits they need.
Because they weren’t on the clock at that time.
Not only did these brave men and women step up to help our country when it needed it most, but they did it for absolutely no compensation. They did it because it was the right thing to do. They did it to save lives and ease sorrow. They did it because they were born to answer the call.
Take Bill Ricci. Until recently, Ricci served as a lieutenant in the Clifton Fire Department. During those fateful days in 2001, Ricci joined 87 of his fellow Clifton firefighters in the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan.
Then, years later, Ricci contracted sarcoidosis from the toxic dust and materials at ground zero.
It ended his career.
But when he turned to the state for assistance with his medical issues, he found no help.
Because Ricci was technically ‘off the clock’ during his time in NYC, he doesn’t qualify for a full accidental disability pension.
Ricci, who is used to having his fellow man’s back and receiving the same help in return, was shocked to find out that he was on his own.
“What always had been understood is that there is an unwritten bond between civil servants and their employers – that we will do what needs to be done, at our own peril, but you need to take care of our family when that time comes. And that time has come,” he said.
NJ.com reported that more than 43,000 people have been certified with a 9/11 related health condition by the World Trade Center Health Program.
Legislators who are looking to help fight for emergency responders who volunteered during the attacks have entered a new resolution that could change that.
NJ1015 reported that ‘The bill, A4882, would apply to members or retirees in the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System or the State Police Retirement System who participated in World Trade Center rescue, recovery or cleanup operations for a minimum of eight hours or were physically injured on Sept. 11 or 12 in 2001.’
“These responders put themselves in harm’s way to help us all in a moment of crisis. The price that these responders paid with their health is enormous,” Doctor Iris Udasin said.
Udasin’s medical center at Rutgers has helped treat over 3,800 first responders who worked during 9/11.
Nearly 1,000 police officers and firefighters dispatched from New Jersey to assist with the terror attacks.
“At least a third are covered under New York’s pension rules, as either Port Authority police officers or retired New York Police Department officers now living in New Jersey,” Udasin said “Of the remaining people that might fall under legislation, clearly not all of the police and firefighters are disabled, and most will continue to work despite their illnesses because this is a population that wants to work.”
Rob Nixon of the NJ PBA said, “The illnesses that they’ve contracted are impossible to suggest came from any other point in their lives,” Nixon said. “These are line of duty injuries. They deserve to be treated as line of duty injuries.”