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​How Many People Are Currently Enrolled in the WTC Health Program?

​How Many People Are Currently Enrolled in the WTC Health Program?

By Troy Rosasco

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act created the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) to provide free medical treatment and medical monitoring services for those who had incurred 9/11 toxic exposure. These individuals included responders working on the rescue, recovery, and cleanup of Ground Zero in the months that followed the attack, or as survivors, which is a term that refers to those who lived, worked, or attended school or daycare on 9/11 or shortly after.

How many people are currently enrolled in the WTC health program? The WTCHP combined two previous federal actions that had already been serving the 9/11 community and grandfathered more than 56,000 responders and more than 4,700 survivors into the newly created program. As time passed, more of the estimated 400,000 people believed to be in the area of Lower Manhattan on or shortly after 9/11 became ill. More than 20 years later, first responders and the survivor downtown area workers, residents, students and other continue to seek services provided through the Health Program. For more information, please reach out to our lawyers.

Current Numbers for the WTCHP

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—which administers the program through its National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)—as of March 2022, there were more than 83,000 responders and more than 33,700 survivors participating in the program.

Hundreds of responders and survivors are applying for WTCHP benefits each month. For example, in March 2022, there were 311 new responder enrollees and 484 new survival enrollees, increasing the WTCHP membership rolls by nearly 800 people.

The number of survivor enrollees is increasing for two reasons, First, there is an increased awareness by the community of downtown workers, residents, and students of their eligibility to receive free lifetime healthcare through the WTC Health Program. Second, as the years pass, this same population of workers and residents are being diagnosed with a variety of 9/11-related conditions, including many cancers that take years after the 2001/2002 exposure to develop.

More than half of the participants of the WTCHP are general responders. This term refers to workers or volunteers who assisted with the rescue, recovery, and cleanup operations but were not members of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). Around 15 percent of the program’s participants were responders involved in rescue, recovery, and cleanup operations while employed by FDNY. Twenty-nine percent of the members are considered survivors – the downton workers, residents, students and others who were present south of Canal Street between 9/11 and May 30, 2002.

With benefits available for those who were present at the other terror attack sites during certain periods of exposure, only about 1 percent of the program’s members were responders to the Pentagon or the accident site in Shanksville, PA.

As of the end of March 2022, 5,230 members of the WTCHP had passed away.

How Old are WTCHP Participants?

With the 9/11 terror attacks having occurred 20 years ago, the largest number of Program participants are over age 55. Thirty-eight percent of WTC Health Program participants are now between the ages of 55 and 64, and another 20 percent are between the ages of 65 and 74. Nine percent of the participants are currently older than 74.

More than responders found themselves trapped in the dust plume as it enveloped the area or breathing its residue in the following months.

In 2001, around 20,000 school children and 2,500 staff members attended classes or worked in 29 K-12 schools when the attacks occurred. Tens of thousands of students also attended college at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and Pace University. Not understanding the danger of the toxic mix contained in the dust plume, federal, state, and city leaders encouraged these students and their teachers to return to the classroom immediately after the attacks. Unfortunately, the toxins lingered in the air for the entire 2001-2002 school year, resulting in additional long-term exposure.

The youngest WTCHP members—those under the age of 35—make up about 1 percent of the program’s participants, and most of the members in this age group are survivors. About 5 percent of the program’s membership is between the ages of 35-44. Twenty-seven percent are now between the ages of 45 and 54, including 22 percent of the responders and 5 percent of the survivors.

In 2019, the city’s Department of Education announced that it would mail out advisories and provide informational materials about the federal 9/11 assistance programs. This assistance included the WTCHP and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which provides compensation to those who have suffered wage loss or pain and suffering as a result of their 9/11 condition. The Education Department’s goal was to ensure that everyone exposed as a student to the WTC dust had access to information about the benefits available to them.

Both Men and Women Participate in WTCHP

Around 77 percent of WTCHP participants are male. Much of the disparity between male and female members comes from an estimated 83 percent of the responders to 9/11 being male. However, males make up about three-quarters of the survivor group as well.

The WTC Helath Program has been fairly demanding in requiring solid scientific evidence linking certain conditions to the 9/11 terror attacks. For example, the committee tasked with analyzing research about potential 9/11-caused illnesses voted to add uterine cancer to the list of covered conditions.

However, multiple attempts over the years tried to add the condition, but previous attempts failed because the test groups were too small to produce convincing evidence through research on the link between 9/11 toxins and uterine cancer. The delay in approving the condition for certification has likely resulted in females facing the life-altering or even life-ending consequences of a 9/11-related condition but unable to access benefits to assist them in dealing with it.

What Types of Conditions Are Participants Suffering From?

Many of the participants of the WTCHP have been diagnosed with multiple conditions related to toxic exposure. Twenty-two percent of the program’s participants have obtained certifications for at least two 9/11-related medical needs, while another 17 percent have been diagnosed with three. About 700 participants in the program have obtained certifications for ten or more 9/11-related illnesses.

The most commonly certified conditions are aerodigestive disorders, including asthma, chronic cough syndrome, chronic laryngitis, chronic nasopharyngitis, chronic respiratory disorder, chronic rhinosinusitis, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), interstitial lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (RADS), sleep apnea, and upper airways hyperreactivity.

The most common diagnoses for WTCHP participants, and the number of participants suffering from the condition, are as follows:

  • Chronic rhinosinusitis has affected more than 28,000 responders and more than 6,700 survivors.
  • GERD was diagnosed in nearly 26,000 responder participants and nearly 5,700 survivors.
  • Cancer was diagnosed in more than 16,000 responder participants and more than 11,200 survivors.
  • Asthma affects more than 13,700 responders and nearly 5,400 survivors.
  • Sleep apnea has been certified by more than 15,300 responders and almost 1,600 survivors.

The most common conditions suffered by members who have died included aerodigestive disorders, followed by cancer.

Not Just Physical

Not all conditions impacting the 9/11 community and eligible for certification through the WTCHP are physical conditions. Nearly 20,000 program participants have been diagnosed with at least one certified mental health condition due to being present at the terror attack site, in addition to around 780 deceased members. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was diagnosed in nearly 9,300 responders and nearly 3,900 survivors, making it the sixth-most common issue facing WTCHP participants.

The most significant number of participants with certified mental health conditions—accounting for more than 80 percent of all participants with certified mental health conditions—are responders who are now between the ages of 45-74. For more information, please reach out.

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Do All of the Participants Live in New York?

The WTCHP provides its services to New York residents through several Centers of Clinical Excellence throughout the city. However, every state makes services available through the program’s nationwide provider network because members of the 9/11 community live in every state.

The states with the lowest numbers of participants (under 50) include:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Wyoming

The states with the highest WTCHP enrollment numbers (more than 10,000) include:

  • New Jersey
  • New York

Those with between 1,000 to 9,999 participants include:

  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia

Why Is the WTCHP Continuing to Grow So Fast?

With hundreds of members applying for and becoming accepted to the WTCHP every month, the membership is rapidly increasing, with the largest number of new members coming from the survivor group.

We attribute the meteoric rise in membership to:

  • More individuals received 9/11-related diagnoses, including many types of cancer. Cancers have a latency period, which refers to the time between exposure to a toxin and the appearance of symptoms. This latency period is often many years, making new cancer diagnoses related to 9/11 toxic exposure probable as the years pass.
  • More individuals learning about the program. Many responders and survivors who have already applied and begun receiving benefits have spread the word about the program. Organizations, including FDNY, have been working directly with the program to ensure their members have the assistance they need since the program began (and even before that, through previous programs). The New York Department of Education 2019 did its part to ensure that the young survivors of the attack are also aware of the program by sending informational materials to them.
  • The addition of new conditions to the list, including uterine cancer. Until a condition is added to the WTCHP list, benefits are not available beyond annual screenings. That makes those suffering from the condition eligible to obtain treatment and seek compensation through the VCF. As time passes, the research community has a greater opportunity to study the impacts of the toxins and gain a better understanding of the types of medical conditions the 9/11 community is suffering from.
  • In addition to uterine cancer, the conditions that members of the 9/11 have petitioned (so far unsuccessfully) the program to add to their list of covered conditions include:
    • Parkinson’s disease, which is a brain disorder that causes unintended and uncontrollable body movements such as shaking, stiffness, and loss of coordination;
    • Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, which is a condition in which an abnormal protein is formed within the bone marrow and can lead to blood cancer
    • Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism
    • Stroke
    • Irritable bowel syndrome
    • Hypertension

Becoming a Member

Individuals interested in obtaining medical treatment and monitoring through the WTCHP can apply for the program and prove they meet the eligibility criteria for the 9/11 group they were a part of, including FDNY responders, general responders, survivors (downtown workers, residents, students and others), and survivors Pentagon/Shanksville responders.

Hansen & Rosasco, LLP - 9/11 Attorneys in New York

This criterion includes proving – with independent witness affidavits and other written proof – that they were present at one of the areas of high exposure from September 11, 2001, to July 31, 2002, for the required number of hours. Applications can be made online or by submitting a paper application via mail or fax. A 9/11 attorney can help prepare a valid application and help ensure that your application is timely and properly prepared.

Those with a 9/11-related certified condition can also seek compensation from the VCF for pain and suffering and to cover any wage loss experienced as a result of their illness.

Contact an experienced September 11th benefits attorney for more information about the WTCHP and assistance with your application.

Posted under: 9/11 Victim Compensation, World Trade Center Health Program

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