Former OSHA inspector who worked at Ground Zero denied workers’ comp benefits
A former OSHA inspector who worked at the 9/11 Ground Zero site, now diagnosed with a terminal 9/11 illness, is battling with the Labor Department for his workers’ compensation benefit, according to an article in the New York Daily News.
Henderson’s 9/11 illness was acknowledged by the World Trade Center Victims Compensation Fund — which awarded him a $300,000 payout whn he first got sick.
But that was not enough proof for Henderson to get a workers’ compensation benefit from the Labor Department, according to his attorney.
DOL rejected his first claim for the benefit — which could be as much as 75 percent of his former salary, tax-free — because it said he didn’t prove a causal link between his illness and his time at Ground Zero, according to documents reviewed by the Daily News.
“It’s hard to understand how this process works,” Henderson told The News. “I have one arm of the federal government acknowledging the 9/11 link, and other arm saying that’s not enough.”
In 2001, Henderson — a former Army firefighter who did 20 years in the military — was in his early 40s and still fairly new to OSHA.
He was sent to Ground Zero on Oct. 7, 2001, to make sure the construction crews, firefighters and others working amid the debris were following proper safety procedures.
“We were there for a week, and they had us on round-the-clock shifts walking the site. We were taking samples, making sure people were safe, things like that,” said Henderson.
“I was on the night shift. There was work 24/7. 'The Pile' was still smoking, there was a haze in the air. The rule was, if you were within 50 feet of the Pile, you wore a respirator,” he recalled.
Henderson wore all the personal protective equipment available — and until 2006, he suffered no ill effects from his time on the Pile.
But that year, he started having difficulty passing his annual OSHA physical, which required him to take a lung capacity test. He kept failing it.
In 2009, his skin erupted in a violent red rash accompanied by blisters.
“He was in the burn unit for 3 ½ weeks,” his wife, Melissa Henderson, said.
“Things kept popping up on his skin and nobody knew what it was. The hospital said it was probably something from the chemicals that had sat deep in his body for a long time.”
By the time he was able to leave the burn unit, Henderson had a bigger problem: He was on the verge of total respiratory failure.
His doctor put him in a medically induced coma for seven weeks, his wife said.
Thanks to the $300,000 WTC compensation payout for his pain and suffering, Melissa was able to quit her job and nurse him back to his feet — but it took two years, Dale Henderson said.
When he was able, he went back to work, but no longer as a field inspector. He took a desk job.
Then came a day when he couldn’t walk across the office without losing breath.
“They told me in 2009 that the life expectancy for this disease is five to seven years — so I’m already beating the odds,” Henderson said.
But he has to use a walker and — because of failing kidneys — get dialysis three times a week. At night, he sleeps with oxygen.
Henderson used to make about $120,000 as an OSHA employee. Now, he and his family live off his Social Security disability payments and his military retirement pay.
A spokesman for the Labor Department declined to comment.
Source: New York Daily News