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First responders need protection

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New law is deserved change for those who save lives

By Merilee Dannemann

Most Americans were heartened a few months ago, when Congress enacted and President Obama signed — with considerable fanfare ­— a law providing financial help for people who got sick after the fall of the World Trade Center in 2001.
Firefighters, police officers and others involved in the massive cleanup have suffered with diseases traceable to the horrendous toxic exposures they endured.
Special legislation was needed for the civic employees, in part because of the long time lag between the exposure and the disease.
Statutes vary from state to state, but in general, occupational disease coverage under workers’ compensation law is limited by narrow definitions and time limits that would make it difficult to apply to these cases.
It could also be argued that occupational disease coverage is inadequate, but that’s another discussion.
Some of the people affected at Ground Zero were volunteers. With all the recognition going to civic employees, I wondered whether this legislation covers the volunteers, too. And that led me to think about other volunteers, including volunteer firefighters.


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