Pentagon 9/11 Responders Denied Access WTC Health Program Benefits

December 13, 2022
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Army veterans who worked in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001—and have subsequently developed health problems that were caused by having inhaled toxic dust and fumes—are barred from enrolling in the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP), despite their heroic deeds. Their omission from the WTCHP seems to be an oversight. Only Congress, however, can close the loophole.

Many Army veterans, like Nate Coward, sprung into action on September 11, 2001. As a member of Alpha Company, attached to the Army’s Third Infantry Division, Mr. Coward and his team spent the weeks following 9/11 working in the gaping hole blown open by the hijacked airliner, where they recovered victims, and then buried them in Arlington National Cemetery. Day after day, Mr. Coward exposed himself to the toxic air, dust, and smoke that choked the Pentagon.

Eventually, Mr. Coward developed severe health problems. He sought care from physicians who had extensive experience in treating 9/11 toxic dust exposure victims. The doctors diagnosed him with at least two medical conditions that were related to his work at the Pentagon: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sarcoidosis, which is a lung disease caused by the body’s reaction to chemicals and dust. Sarcoidosis is an affliction that’s common to many 9/11 toxic dust victims.

After receiving his diagnosis, Mr. Coward turned to the WTCHP for help. The WTCHP provides healthcare and health monitoring services to 9/11 victims who have been diagnosed with medical conditions that were presumptively caused by exposure to the dust and smoke that resulted from the terrorist attacks.

Mr. Coward applied to enroll in the WTCHP, and administrators admitted him into the program. Despite successfully registering with the WTCHP, Mr. Coward received a letter denying his benefits. The letter said he did not qualify because the law that created the WTCHP does not allow service members to enroll. Instead, the law only allows fire, police, federal law enforcement agents, emergency medical personnel, contractors, and volunteers to apply. The Veterans Affairs (VA) Administration granted Mr. Coward with a 30% disability retirement because of the medical conditions that were connected to his exposure to toxins on 9/11. Unfortunately, the increase in disability retirement benefits does not apply retroactively. He has appealed the denial of benefits from the WTCHP.

Mr. Coward was not alone. He said he knows of two other Alpha Company service members who were denied by the WTCHP. Additionally, the WTCHP rejected the applications of at least 15 service members.

One service member named Jacqueline is fighting back with the help of the 9/11 lawyers from Pitta & Baione, a New York-based law firm that represents victims of the 9/11 toxic dust exposure. According to her attorney. Matthew Baione, Jacqueline worked as a staff action control officer for the Army’s chief of staff in the Pentagon on 9/11. The jumbo jet struck the building close to her office. Jacqueline saved a civilian who had been severely injured by the blast as she escaped through the Pentagon’s smoke-filled halls. Jacqueline’s bosses assigned her to track military and civilian casualties. Shecombed through the wreckage to recover classified documents. This task exposed her to toxic fumes and smoke.

Jacqueline suffers from several digestive problems as well as sleep apnea. Many people who were exposed to 9/11 smoke and dust developed the same conditions as Jacqueline. Consequently, the WTCHP recognizes those disorders as presumptively caused by 9/11 toxic dust exposure.

Like Mr. Coward, Jaqueline cannot receive benefits from the WTCHP because she is a military member. Jaqueline believes the WTCHP is better suited to handle the unique healthcare problems caused by toxin exposure on 9/11 than the VA or other medical providers. The WTCHP proactively takes care of its members and provides better treatment overall because it solely focuses on 9/11 exposure victims. The WTCHP understands what symptoms to watch for and can identify problems as soon as they arise. The level of care the WTCHP provides gives 9/11 victims a better chance to survive. By contrast, the VA is reactive and can be slow when providing treatment.

9/11 Lawyers Call On Congress to Close Loophole

Jaqueline’s attorney, Mr. Baione, called on Congress to close this loophole. Without positive action from Congress, many Department of Defense workers and military members could face slower-moving cancers and other health problems without help from the WTCHP, even though they acted heroically and selflessly like thousands of others on September 11, 2001 and in the months that followed.

Are You a Victim of 9/11 Toxic Exposure?

If you believe that you may have been exposed to the toxic dust that resulted from the terrorist attacks, contact the 9/11 lawyers from Pitta & Baione today by calling 844-596-1441 to find out how you may be eligible for financial compensation and healthcare benefits. With over $300 million recovered for our clients, we can help you file a claim and collect the compensation you deserve.

9/11 army soldier in uniform with an american flag patch