Death toll of FBI 9/11 first responders rises to 16

NEW YORK, New York – Nearly 18 years after the deadly 9/11 attacks in the United States, the death toll from that horrific series of events continues to rise.

Firefighters, police, paramedics and FBI agents and experts are high among the list of first responders that are being added to thousands of victims killed on that fateful day.

The tragedy is that first responders continue to die or suffer ill health from the aftermath.

The death in April of yet another FBI employee who responded to the September 11 attacks takes the toll of FBI personnel to have died in the wake of the attacks to sixteen.

William “Homer” Lewis, an engineer and electronics technician at the FBI Academy, died April 3 after battling an illness attributed to his work at the Pentagon in the days and weeks after terrorists crashed an aircraft into the side of the building. Lewis, who joined the FBI in 1990, was one of about 4,000 FBI agents and prpofessional that worked at the attack sites in lower Manhattan, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

“Our folks responded without concerns for themselves,” FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said during a recent event at FBI Headquarters, and broadcast to all 56 field offices, aimed at spreading awareness about the need for 9/11 responders to register for available health care resources before it’s too late.

“If you hear nothing else I have to say, please register today,” Bowdich said. “We’ve lost too many good people, and I feel we are going to lose more.”

The federal government has several programs for affected 9/11 responders, including the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). The WTCHP, which authorizes coverage through 2090, provides ongoing screening, monitoring, and treatment for certified conditions, and the VCF provides compensation to individuals – or their families if they have died – for certain injuries or conditions or deaths related to the 9/11 attacks.

Only a fraction of the thousands of FBI workers that were involved haved registered with the World Trade Center Health Program or with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

It is likely that this too is the case with police, firefighters and paramedics.

The renewed urgency within the FBI’s ranks is due in part by a looming statutory deadline to submit claims for the Victim Compensation Fund – December 18, 2020. The urgency was compounded earlier this year when the special master in charge of the $7.3 billion compensation fund announced that future payouts would be significantly reduced (by up to 70%) because of dwindling funds. More than $5.1 billion has already been awarded to more than 21,000 claimants as of March 31, 2019, with thousands more claims still pending review.

“I am painfully aware of the inequity of the situation,” VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya wrote in a February 15, 2019 message posted on the VCF website. “I also deeply regret that I could not honor my intention to spare any claim submitted prior to this announcement from any reductions made due to a determination of funding insufficiency. But the stark reality of the data leaves me no choice.”

With at least three deaths last year of FBI special agents whose illnesses were directly related to their work at 9/11 sites and more than 40 FBI employees currently being treated for 9/11-related illnesses, a concerted effort is underway to get all 9/11 responders—working and retired—to register for the programs even if they are not showing any signs of illness.

“We’re trying to make sure people are at least registering for a potential claim, whether they are sick or not,” said Jean O’Connor, a 9/11 responder and special agent in the Washington Field Office who is part of a cadre of FBI staffers leading the awareness campaign. They are encouraging all 9/11 responders – at the FBI and elsewhere, to include task force officers, police officers, and firefighters – to get registered so that if there is a need down the road they have already established their eligibility. “The Victim Compensation Fund only kicks in when you make a claim, but the registration is just saying, ‘I was a first responder,’ ” and gets the VCF to acknowledge that you were.”

Published at Fri, 03 May 2019 07:56:01 +0000, source Death toll of FBI 9/11 first responders rises to 16.

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