9/11 Survivors Are Still Getting Sick. Now They’re Worried They Can’t Afford Their Bills

On Sept. 11, 2001, Marines veteran Charles “Chuck” Flickinger walked into the local firehouse in Lake Carmel, N.Y., and volunteered to join the rescue effort. He arrived at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan by nightfall, and was sent underneath the ruins of the World Trade Center to look for survivors.

When he returned home three days later, his wife, Charlotte Berwind, says he was changed. For a few years, he found it difficult to speak to anyone, and his evenings were disrupted by night terrors and sleepwalking. However, Berwind tells TIME he also came home with a new sense of purpose. He returned to volunteer at the fire department, trained to become a registered nurse, and helped with the rescue effort after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.

It was years before the couple learned the full cost of Flickinger’s volunteer efforts: He was diagnosed with cancer at the border of his esophagus and stomach on April 11, 2016, and died less than nine months later, on Jan. 1, 2017. He was 56.

Berwind says doctors gave them a clear explanation for his illness — it was certified by the World Trade Center Health Program and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine as related to his exposure to the Sept. 11 attacks. That certification could make a major difference for Berwind, since it will likely give her access to one of the biggest safety nets for 9/11 survivors and their families: the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund, which provides compensation for losses related to 9/11 exposure. As of Feb. 15, the fund has distributed nearly $5 billion for 21,000 claims for illnesses and deaths that doctors have certified were caused by the attacks, according to the Fund. The Fund’s average decision was worth $240,470.

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Berwind Charlotte Berwind with Charles “Chuck” Flickinger, who passed away in 2017 from cancer related to his service on 9/11

In February, the official who leads the program — Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya — announced dwindling funds will force them to slash future payouts by 50% to 70%, a figure that worries those still waiting for compensation, including Charlotte Berwind.

“Please don’t forget us,” says Berwind. “To [some people], 9/11 is over. It might as well be Pearl Harbor. But, unfortunately, thousands upon thousands of people are affected.”

Throughout his illness, Flickinger benefited from the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides medical monitoring and treatment services to eligible 9/11 responders and survivors at no cost. However, Berwind, 65, says she’s suffered financially since her husband’s death. Berwind supported him while he was training to become a certified nurse, expecting that he could help support her through her retirement. Instead, she was forced to take time away from her catering business to care for him through his illness. She’s now in the process of relocating to Mexico to cut down on living expenses. She’d prefer to stay near her friends and family in …read more

Source:: Time – Politics

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