The head of a fund for people injured in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center explained Thursday how they could be eligible for compensation but got an earful from those who said the limitations are too restrictive and seem engineered by detached lawmakers in Washington.
Sheila Birnbaum, the New York attorney charged with administering the fund, addressed about 50 first responders and others at a town hall meeting in City Hall two days after a federal review found insufficient evidence linking cancer to Sept. 11 to warrant adding cancer to the list of conditions covered.
The swelling debate over whether cancer and other illnesses should merit compensation from the fund underscores the delicate and emotionally charged issue of how victims prove their injuries were caused by the 2001 attacks.
Birnbaum, the fund's special master, said she was "representing the victims" at the town hall meeting in Jersey City, across the Hudson River from ground zero.
"If you have a problem, you can take it up with Congress," she said. "That's what we have to deal with it."
Congress originally established a fund in December 2001, doling out $1 billion to the injured and $6 billion to the families of victims. But that program closed in 2003, leaving those whose injuries materialized years later without the ability to benefit.