RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Major cuts to the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund announced last Friday are leaving thousands of people fearing how they’ll pay for medical treatment.
Federal officials say the $7.3 billion fund is quickly running out of money. Payments to those sickened with cancer and other illnesses after responding to Ground Zero, are being slashed by 50 to 70 percent.
Nearly 40,000 people have applied to 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, after developing cancer and other illnesses linked to being at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
One of those applicants is Ricardo Martinez, 53, of Glen Allen. Martinez helped haul heavy debris away from the towers, starting three days after the attack. Ricardo was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013, and says he’s received payments from the fund so he can afford medication.
“It was a lot of smoke... You could breath a lot of chemicals," said Martinez. “This is something I have to deal with for the rest of my life.”
But Martinez fears how he’ll now afford cancer treatment both now, and in the future if it worsens.
"The toxic dust affected everybody,” said Michael Barasch, an attorney based in New York City who represents hundreds of 9/11 victims across the country, including Ricardo and nearly 60 people in Virginia.
"It is certainly is a body blow to the stomach of everybody who helped out, and now they feel that the government is turning their back on them,” Barasch said. “The World Trade Center toxic dust had the same pH level as Drano.”
Lawmakers are now introducing new legislation to replenish the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, assuring people in need and future applicants, will not be turned away.
Barasch is heading to D.C. on Monday, to continue to advocate for the legislation and his clients and their families, totaling more than 1,400 people.