Monday, October 16, 2006

Start Spreading The News

As reported in the New York Post today (story here)…

October 15, 2006 -- The woman in charge of the $1 billion fund that's fighting claims by sickened World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers is collecting $350,000 a year plus benefits from the federal fund - a pay package that has stunned and angered advocates for the 9/11 responders.

Christine LaSala, president and CEO of the city-controlled WTC Captive Insurance Co., which is managing the 9/11 fund created by Congress, gets the entity's top salary - which has never before been publicly revealed - plus $20,000 in health benefits for herself and her family, documents obtained by The Post show.

Meanwhile, teams of lawyers hired by the fund to dispute and deny more than 5,000 claims for illnesses blamed on toxic exposure at Ground Zero earn up to $550 an hour for "senior partners," the records show. Other top lawyers working for the entity earn higher rates, sources said.

The Post has reported that Captive, a self-insurance fund set up by the city in 2004 to cover claims from the WTC cleanup, had spent more than $40 million as of four months ago on overhead and lawyers. The company has refused to pay a single ill Ground Zero responder.

LaSala, 56, a former partner at insurance brokerage Johnson & Higgins, took the helm of the captive in mid-2004.

"It's amazing that Ms. LaSala gets $20,000 for health insurance while the 9/11 heroes she's fighting often have no health coverage at all," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).

"If the city wanted someone to do nothing, I'm sure they could find someone a lot cheaper than $370,000 per year," Maloney said. "This salary could have helped a lot of sick and injured workers take care of their families."

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which keeps a registry of cops suffering respiratory illness, cancer and other diseases since working at the toxic WTC pit and Fresh Kills landfill, was taken aback.

"They're paying that kind of salary to someone overseeing a campaign where lawyers are working to deprive people of benefits for the illnesses they developed at Ground Zero," Lynch said. "9/11 responders are struggling with medical bills."

LaSala's pay exceeds by $100,000 the $250,000 salary of Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, the highest-paid city employee, who oversees a $14 billion budget, 110,000 employees and 1.1 million kids.
(A hat tip goes out to one of my “field correspondents” for this..."Captive Insurance" is an absolutely perfect name for the miscreants who sanction this.)

And now, the battle extends beyond whether or not those affected will be able to claim health benefits, but also whether or not families and friends of those afflicted will be able to collect a death benefit for the victims as well (as this Village Voice story notes, first responders ended up suffering about 12 years’ worth of lung damage from the single day of the attack, which is totally mind boggling).

As this Village Voice story notes…

Already, thousands have filed affidavits attesting to their WTC-related service. So far, 2,596 active and retired members have filed Ground Zero affidavits with the FDNY pension fund; 2,870 with the Police Pension Fund; and 973 with NYCERS. Ostensibly, those affidavits are for potential future disability filings under last year's presumptive law. But some first responders who already have line-of-duty disability benefits might be filing in anticipation of the death benefit that will adhere should the (measure by New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (A11255) and its Senate counterpart by Sen. Martin Golden (S7885-A) ) become law.
And for the record, let's not forget the person who was primarily responsible for misleading everyone into believing that the air around Ground Zero was of a breathable quality immediately aftet the attacks.

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