Executive Director Update


NYCERS Executive Director Update
Melanie Whinnery

Photo of Melanie Whinnery

Senate Standing Committee on Pensions and Civil Service
World Trade Center (WTC) Update 

October 8, 2020
  • From 2017 to present, NYCERS added six new physicians to the Medical Board and four physicians have left the board.
  • In November of 2017, at the time I appeared at a Senate hearing on World Trade Center, over 10,000 Notices of Participation had been filed. That has increased at this time to 11,580. Of that number, 7,596 have been verified and 154 are pending agency verification. The remainder 3,830, were not able to be verified for a variety of reasons, such as the individual volunteered for Rescue, Recovery and Cleanup and was not sent by their employer, the individual was not a member, or did not meet other requirements as specified in the law.
  • In November of 2017, there were 977 Notices of Participation waiting for agency verification. That has been reduced to 154 despite the increase of over 1,100 new Notices of Participation having been filed during that time period.
  • In 2019, a change in law to allow for more medical board doctors provided NYCERS with the capability to hire more doctors in the future in anticipation that many of the over 7,596 verified World Trade Center Notices of Participation on file could result in disability applications if more of our members become ill, or if new specialties are needed.
  • The Medical Board law also eliminated the requirement that a Medical Board be comprised of doctors from each of the three appointing authorities. As a result of this flexibility, we have more than doubled the number of Medical Board meetings from two per week to nearly five per week.
  • A WTC Medical Board was also added that did not previously exist. The WTC Medical Board meets three times per month.
  • We issued secure NYCERS laptops to the doctors to allow them to review member case information outside of the office and improve the efficiency of the process.
  • We began offering virtual Medical Board interviews where a physical exam may not be necessary.
  • We have enabled physicians to securely and electronically sign Medical Board reports. Previously, hard signatures required each doctor to be onsite in order to finalize a report. If any of the three doctors weren’t scheduled to be on site, it delayed the finalization of a case and the mailing of the report to the member.
  • As a result of the increases in the number of Medical Board meetings and other process improvements, we have shortened the process for members by an average of 60 days. We continue to explore ways to further shorten this time frame. 
  • The Medical Board added additional external medical consultants, especially in psychiatry.
  • NYCERS WTC Fact Sheet was updated to provide clarity on questions raised by members and stakeholders.
  • We revised the letter to members whose Agency could not verify participation at WTC clarifying what documents would support their case.
  • NYCERS established a case management team to handle WTC disability filings. Members, their representatives, and attorneys, have direct access to staff who specialize in World Trade Center applications and processing. 
  • The FDNY and EMT Local 2507 have been provided with direct contacts for disability, WTC and death benefit applications to help expedite processing for these members or their survivors and to allow for greater communication and collaboration between our agencies.