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NEW YORK – The federal 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, set up mainly to help people sickened by World Trade Center dust, has also awarded nearly $2.5 million to 10 people who were at the Pentagon or the Flight 93 crash site in Pennsylvania.
The awards represent just a sliver of the $1.4 billion in payouts authorized under the program to date, according to statistics released Wednesday. Of the 6,285 people awarded compensation so far, three were at the Pentagon during the attack, including a financial analyst awarded $1 million for an injury that eventually became disabling, program officials said.
Five were people who responded to the Pentagon after the attack; their injuries or illnesses weren't disclosed. Two compensation awards worth a combined $60,000 have been made to first responders at the Flight 93 site.
There is no known connection between either of those sites and the types of respiratory illnesses afflicting first responders in New York. Experts have said the hazards were similar to what firefighters might encounter at the site of any house fire or plane crash, but the payments are still allowed under the program. Applicants aren't being asked to prove a strong link between their illness and an environmental toxin.
"We can't get in there on a case-by-case basis and figure that out," said the fund's administrator, Sheila Birnbaum.
Applicants still waiting for a decision include Tresa Roth, of Bristow, Virginia, whose husband, Robert Roth, died of cancer in 2008 at age 44. Roth, an FBI agent, had been part of an evidence-gathering team that responded to the Pentagon on 9/11. He initially dismissed the idea that his illness was related to something he encountered in the building, Tresa Roth said.
"He said, 'I wore hazmat gear! I was prepared!'" she said. But she theorized that his protective gear was ineffective.
Fund officials don't expect awards to be finalized and paid out until 2017.