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9/11 first responder cleared of fraud, but can't regain benefits

Part of the horrific tragedy of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was the fate of many first responders who bravely tried to rescue victims inside the World Trade Center. Many lost their lives. Others survived, but were left with illnesses and injuries that linger to this day.

As Americans, we honor the sacrifice of these police officers, firefighters and EMTs. However, in some cases when these first responders later applied for Social Security Disability, they were accused of fraud and charged with a crime.

A retired police sergeant is among those falsely accused of attempting to defraud the Social Security Administration. He hired a consultant to help with his SSD paperwork, but that consultant was caught up in a mass prosecution by the district attorney. The case involved 106 defendants.

The conduct of the other defendants did not change the fact that the retired officer was disabled by respiratory disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses caused by his presence at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001, and afterward.

Prosecutors eventually dismissed the charges against the man, but the SSD benefits he had previously received were in limbo. He said that the SSA gave him the runaround when he tried to get answers. A state assemblyman took up his case, calling the local SSA payment center every day for a week. When that did not work, the lawmaker starting calling every hour, asking for a supervisor.

Finally, the SSA reinstated the disabled police officer’s benefits on Sept. 15.

We hope that none of our readers ever have to struggle to obtain SSD benefits if they ever have to stop working due to a disability. But if they do, they may benefit from the aid of an attorney.

Source: Times Herald-Record, “Ulster first responder wrongfully accused of 9/11 fraud reclaims pay,” Heather Yakin, Sept. 30, 2014

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