It's right to take pride in treating our heroes well. We should certainly compensate first responders who were actually injured as a result of exposure to the air on 9/11 and the following few days.
But we shouldn't be suckers for every claim. And a quickly growing group of workers - many of them not even sick - are trying to collect "9/11 money." These people aren't heroes.
To be fair, many aren't villains, either: They sincerely believe they're entitled to benefits - because lawyers, unions or politicians have talked them into it.
These advocates want to discard the entire scientific discipline of epidemiology (the study of the causes of human disease) to promote their own narrow interests - at huge cost to the rest of us
The lawyers' effort made headlines yesterday, in reports on a review of medical claims made in the name of nearly 10,000 workers suing the city in federal court for compensation for alleged 9/11-related illnesses.
A review done on the city's behalf found that more than 300 of the plaintiffs actually don't even claim to be sick: They just fear they might fall ill sometime in the future.
The lawyers had sufficient chutzpah to write the judge claiming that, of 329 9/11 workers who've since died, at least 128 deaths were causally related to 9/11 injuries. Oops: In fact, the state Health Department, has merely identified some cause of death for those 128 Ground Zero workers. It hasn't linked any of those deaths to 9/11, and in some cases (e.g., homicides, car accidents) clearly won't.
The lawyers now admit that error. But they make no excuse for asking the court to grant compensation for clients who suffer from a deviated septum, high blood sugar and other ailments obviously unrelated to 9/11.
To bolster their claims, the attorneys are relying on shoddy science from the Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Selikoff was founded with the support of New York labor leaders. Since its inception, it has been a virtual factory for linking illnesses to potential defendants - no matter the science.
How bad is the center's advocacy-disguised-as-science? In September, a New York Times story quoted a physician who'd left Mount Sinai; the pulmonologist called the Selikoff crowd "people with a cause." Indeed, "they are doing workers a disservice," said Dr. Albert Miller "because any time you veer from objective and confirmable statements, you're destroying your own case."
And the activists at Mount Sinai are still asking workers and volunteers to come forward, report illnesses and become part of the center's 9/11-illness studies.
Almost everyone who comes forward is likely to feel ill for some reason - whether or not it's truly related to 9/11. This will get the Mount Sinai researchers the results they're looking for, but it won't help get to the truth.
And people who worked at the site but feel healthy (and thus might provide data that contradicts the researchers' theories) are highly unlikely to bother joining the study now.
But state lawmakers (at the governor's urging) are buying into similar logic. They just passed a law to expand 9/11 workers' eligibility for "presumptive accidental disability retirement benefits."
This status lets city or state workers who qualify file for benefits without having to meet the same burden of proof as others seeking benefits. But the new law expands the privilege to 911 dispatchers and those who worked in distant emergency-vehicle garages.
You can't be exposed to dust over the phone, but if you took a call about the attacks and later suffered posttraumatic stress, your early retirement is covered by the taxpayers. Even if you didn't take a call on 9/11.
Who came up with this outrage? Lawmakers relied on the "expertise" of the September 11th Worker Protection Task Force. The 19-member group is dominated by labor representatives from AFSCME, AFL-CIO, police and fire unions - and by politicians seeking to curry favor with those who don't understand science.
Allowing special interests to grab money on the basis of junk science does nothing to protect heroes. All New Yorkers should be incensed at this exploitation of 9/11.