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WTC VictimsZadroga Act

9/11 and Mental Health

April 15, 2013 | Michael Barasch

It is no exaggeration to say that the 9/11 terrorist attacks inflicted psychological and emotional trauma on Americans from coast to coast — and indeed, on people around the world. No one alive on that infamous day can ever forget the fear and horror that overtook us as we watched the disaster unfold, and the aura of depression that sank in over the days that followed.

For those who lived and worked closest to Ground Zero, and those who spent weeks or months assisting in the cleanup and recovery effort, it is understandable that those effects would be multiplied tenfold.

Yet, from the time the first September 11 Victim Compensation Fund was established just weeks after the attack, through the reopening of the fund in 2010, the emotional and psychological suffering of those who lived through it has been excluded from eligibility for compensation under the fund. Researchers studying post-traumatic stress disorder have witnessed first-hand the proliferation of cases among those affected by 9/11. However the laws establishing the Victim Compensation Fund specify that only physical injuries to the body qualify victims for compensation.

There is help available, however, through another channel: the World Trade Center Health Program operated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Established under the Zadroga Act along with the victim’s fund, the program provides medical monitoring and treatment for 9/11-related ailments experienced by emergency responders, cleanup workers and volunteers at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the passenger-jet crash site near Shanksville, PA.

The program also provides medical tests and care for people who lived, worked or attended school near Ground Zero, or visited the site on 9/11. Unlike the list of diseases eligible under the Victim Compensation Fund, the ailments eligible for help by the WTC Health Program include emotional and psychological disorders such as PTSD.

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