In a move to address health problems faced by private, voluntary hospital employees, paramedics and EMTs who responded to the 9/11 tragedy, Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny(D–Coney Island, Dyker Heights) voted to increase private employees’ workers’ compensation benefits (A.9489). The vote will provide parity with the coverage public employee first responders receive under the Retirement and Social Security Law’s disability pension benefit.
“By increasing workers’ compensation benefits for privately employed medical workers, we are taking the right step to provide the financial assistance needed,” Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said. “We counted on them during a time of enormous crisis, and ensuring the benefits they deserve from this terrorist tragedy is one way we can repay the debt.”
In 2005, the Legislature passed a measure providing for a 75-percent-of-salary disability pension benefit for public employee Ground Zero first responders. The proposal didn’t provide similar relief to the emergency medical technicians and paramedic first responders employed by and dispatched from private voluntary hospitals near Ground Zero.
Today’s action means private, voluntary hospital workers would receive workers’ compensation disability and death benefits of 75 percent of their wages instead of the current 66 2/3 percent Workers’ Compensation Law guideline, matching the percentage public employee first responders receive under their disability pension benefit.
Assemblyman Brook-Krasny added that the bipartisan bill addresses concerns raised in 2005 and 2006 in proposals to expand these benefits. In addition, a federal re-appropriation of $125 million will provide increased workers’ compensation.
“Our 9/11 heroes deserve to be justly compensated, and this legislation recognizes our responsibility to those who sacrificed their health and their lives to help others,” Brook-Krasny said.
The vote continues the Legislature and governor’s efforts since 2001 to improve benefits and due process for victims who participated in the rescue operation activities of the 9/11 tragedy. Recently, the governor extended the workers’ compensation deadline to apply for benefits for one year, until Aug. 14, 2008, giving claimants needed time to file.