The impact of the World Trade Center attack on FDNY firefighter retirement, disabilities, and pension benefits


  • All authors report no conflict on interest involving this work.



Our goal was to examine the effect of the World Trade Center (WTC) attack and subsequent New York City Fire Department (FDNY) rescue/recovery activities on firefighter retirements. We also analyzed the financial impact associated with the increased number and proportion of service-connected “accidental” disability retirements on the FDNY pension system.


A total of 7,763 firefighters retired between 9/11/1994 and 9/10/2008. We compared the total number of retirements and the number and proportion of accidental disability retirements 7 years before and 7 years after the WTC attack. We categorized WTC-related accidental disability retirements by medical cause and worked with the New York City Office of the Actuary to approximate the financial impact by cause.


In the 7 years before 9/11 there were 3,261 retirements, 48% (1,571) of which were accidental disability retirements. In the 7 years after 9/11, there were 4,502 retirements, 66% (2,970) were accidental disability retirements, of which 47% (1,402) were associated with WTC-related injuries or illnesses. After 9/11, the increase in accidental disability retirements was, for the most part, due to respiratory-related illnesses. Additional increases were attributed to psychological-related illnesses and musculoskeletal injuries incurred at the WTC site. Pension benefits associated with WTC-related accidental disability retirements have produced an increased financial burden of over $826 million on the FDNY pension system.


The WTC attacks affected the health of the FDNY workforce resulting in more post-9/11 retirements than expected, and a larger proportion of these retirees with accidental disability pensions. Am. J. Ind. Med. 54:672–680, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.