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Barasch McGarry Wins Justice for Retired Firefighters

Retirees with PTSD may now file for pension reclassification for 9/11 illnesses
Here’s why it matters:

By Richard Alles, Deputy Chief FDNY, Ret.

After months of lobbying, the NYC Fire Pension Fund has implemented a change that corrects an injustice, and will help dozens of retired FDNY members who have fallen ill with 9/11 illnesses. Any member who was granted a WTC-disability pension for PTSD, or non WTC injuries, who has since been diagnosed with WTC-related cancer or pulmonary disease may now file for pension reclassification.

Before this change, the FDNY pension unit’s policy was to decline reclassification applications for any
sick firefighter who was previously found disabled for PTSD until they died of a WTC cancer or disease. You can imagine the sense of frustration and abandonment these firefighters felt. They were stricken with serious illnesses, but denied formal recognition that their diseases were service connected. This policy meant that illnesses among exposed firefighters were under-reported. It also meant that sick members and their families were shut out of important benefits, including economic loss compensation
from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which was created to help them.

Mike Barasch found himself in the position of having to tell firefighters with serious illnesses that they could not recover lost income from the VCF, although he believed they deserved it. He was deeply unsettled by the unfairness of the situation, and he was determined to do something about it. He lobbied the Director of the pension fund, who in turn, brought it to the attention of the FDNY Legal Bureau and the Board of Trustees, ultimately effectuating the change.

Thanks to the efforts of Mike, FDNY Legal, and the Board of Trustees, members who are retired under the WTC disability law for PTSD may now apply to reclassify their pensions if they have been diagnosed with significant WTC-related respiratory disease or cancer. These members can then receive benefits from the VCF. And, their families are protected in the event that the member dies from the WTC-related illness. As a 38-year member of the FDNY, I applaud this change.

I wish to remind any affected member that your union trustee is always the best source of information for you. The trustee sits on the Pension Board of Trustees which is the final approval body for all disability claims. If you are contemplating a reclassification application, you should let the trustee know before your application is submitted. The trustee’s expertise with similar disability claims is invaluable. Of course, you are always welcome to call us with any questions as well. We’re here to help however we can.

Even if this news does not apply to you personally, please help us spread the word to any fellow retiree you may know who has been diagnosed with cancer or lung disease after retirement.

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