9/11 First Responders Begin Getting Their Health Payments

More than a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 15 first responders were the first to receive health payouts on Tuesday as part of a federal compensation fund for victims.

The awards will help victims and their families face the unexpected healthcare costs, lost wages, and suffering that resulted from the exposure to toxic fumes, dust and smoke at Ground Zero. And as of last year, 50 types of cancer that may be linked to Ground Zero exposure are finally eligible for coverage as well.

Thousands have suffered from respiratory illnesses and other diseases since assisting in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and the death toll for emergency responders has exceeded 1,000.

Because of the sheer number affected, the fund “could in theory, according to an actuarial calculation, have to pay $8.5 billion, far more than it can afford.” In 2010, Republicans temporarily blocked the plan in the Senate, and effectively cut down the health coverage able to be provided over the fund’s five-year period.