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.