NYS Seal For Immediate Release:
October 23, 2007


Assembly Increases Workers' Compensation Benefits for 9/11 Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians

In a move to address health problems faced by paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who responded to the 9/11 tragedy, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today announced the house gave final legislative passage to a measure to increase workers' compensation benefits for these workers. The measure will provide parity with the coverage public employee first responders receive under the Retirement and Social Security Law's disability pension benefit.

This bill (A.9489/S.6521), sponsored by Assembly Labor Committee Chair Susan John, amends the Workers' Compensation Law to confer compensation benefits for permanent disabilities incurred to private voluntary hospital EMTs and paramedics who heroically participated in the rescue operations of the terrorist attacks at the WTC site on September 11th. To date, almost half of these brave first responders have died.

"The horrific events at the World Trade Center in New York City brought about the best in humanity," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "The people who we are seeking to help are those courageous individuals who labored without fear to save lives, fought destruction with courage, and braved the unknown with the compassion and strength of the American spirit. Our 9/11 heroes deserve to be justly compensated. This bill takes the steps necessary to ensure that happens.

"These brave men and women came to our aid on September 11. I am honored to help bring this aid to them today," said John (D-Rochester).

"I would like to personally thank Speaker Silver and Labor Chair John for being leaders in this fight for us. We are finally getting the recognition, respect and benefits that we deserve as much as our other brave heroes who raced to Ground Zero. I am so grateful to Speaker Silver for making sure that we were not victimized by 9/11 twice," said Marvin Bethea, one of the nine paramedics affected by the legislation.

"Speaker Silver has shown us today that he is a man of his word. This fight has taken two-years but I cannot express how much I appreciate that he stuck by his word. Let us all remember what happened on September 11. People should get the benefits that are due to them because of the illnesses they sustained," said James Dobson, another of the nine paramedics affected by the legislation.

Silver noted that in 2005, the Legislature passed a measure providing for a 75 percent salary disability pension benefit for public employee Ground Zero first responders. The proposal did not provide similar relief to the EMTs and paramedic first responders employed by and dispatched from private voluntary hospitals near Ground Zero.

According to the lawmakers, the bill means private voluntary hospital workers will receive workers' compensation disability and death benefits of 75 percent of their wages instead of the current 66 2/3 percent Workers' Compensation Law guideline, matching the percentage public employee first responders receive under their disability pension benefit.

Today's vote continues the Assembly's ongoing efforts to improve benefits and due process for victims who participated in the rescue operation activities of the 9/11 tragedy. Recently, Gov. Eliot Spitzer extended the worker's compensation deadline to apply for benefits for one year, until August 14, 2008 giving claimants needed time to file. The Governor is expected to sign the measure into law.