On July 22, volunteer firefighters from Long Island gathered at the Nassau County Firefighter’s Museum and Education Center to spread awareness of the fast-approaching deadline to register with the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund.
The deadline to register with the VCF is July 29 (see box).
Firefighter Courtney Cousins of the Syosset Fire Department, who has been battling cancer since 2010 due to toxic dust exposure at Ground Zero, spoke on the importance of registering with the VCF.
“I cannot emphasize the importance of registering,” Cousins said. “You’ll preserve all of your rights to come back and make a claim.”
Cousins explained that the registration process is fairly straightforward and requires one to provide their name, home address, date of birth and social security number.
“There is no easy way to describe the things we’ve seen,” Cousins added. “We were all down there — we were all exposed. Everyone did their job to the best of their ability. Do not let these benefits go by the waste side.”
John Feal, political activist known for his advocacy for 9/11 first responders, spoke further on the difference between filing a claim and registering with the VCF.
“Anybody can file a claim,” said Feal, founder of the Feal Good Foundation, an organization which aims to educate elected officials and private entities on the various problems, concerns and issues faced by First Responders in their everyday duties.
“But to register, you had to have been certified by the WTC Health Program. That deadline was extended and coming to an end on July 29,” he explained. “We implore everyone to file a claim, get into the WTC Health Program, and then file a VCF claim.”
Feal, who was a prominent figure advocating for the 9/11 Victims Fund in Congress in 2019 said, “We walked the halls for 17 years,” with many people who are no longer alive. “Let us not let their names die in vain.
“It is not a matter of if, but when,” Feal added. “We want you to register — file a claim.”
Feal said that if anyone has questions or needs help, he is personally available for contact via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Patrons can also visit FealGoodFoundation.com.
Feal also shared that this deadline does not only apply to first responders, but to anyone who was working at Ground Zero, in the days, weeks, or months following the attacks. This includes those who worked in construction, clean-up, and debris removal, members of the media who were covering the events, as well as people who lived, worked or went to school in the exposure zone. For further clarification on who is eligible, vcf.gov can provide answers.
“It’s hard to believe that its 20 years,” said Chief Instructor of the Nassau County Firefighters Museum John Murray. “This museum will never forget what happened that day,” and invited anyone to visit their memorial for all of those who were lost.