Executive Director Update

Overview

NYCERS Executive Director Update
Melanie Whinnery

 

Senate Standing Committee on Pensions and Civil Service
World Trade Center (WTC) Update 
July 17, 2018

 

Verifying Notices of Participation
  • At the time of the November 2017 hearing, there were more than 10,000 Notices of Participation filed by NYCERS members – now there are more than 10,400.
  • As of December 14, 2017, there were 977 Notices of Participation waiting for agency verification. The Mayor’s office followed up with Mayoral agencies, and NYCERS followed up with non-Mayoral agencies.  As of February 2018, there were 533 outstanding Notices, including new Notices received. Since then, an additional 165 new Notices were filed. At the present time, a total of 394 are awaiting agency verification. NYCERS and the Mayor’s office have initiated a second round of follow-up on the remaining Notices.
  • NYCERS’ Board of Trustees passed a resolution at its February 2018 board meeting to enable members to appear before the World Trade Center Review Committee to present evidence of their participation for consideration if NYCERS has been unsuccessful in getting a response from the member’s employer.
  • NYCERS’ Board of Trustees also formed two additional World Trade Center Review Committees, beginning in March, in order to afford more members the opportunity to present their evidence.  Prior to the formation of the two additional committees, 4.5 cases were reviewed per month on average.  With three review committees, the average is now more than 21 cases per month.
  • NYCERS is implementing technology that will allow members to view the status of their Notice of Participation in their MyNYCERS account by the end of this year – they will see the Date of Filing and Disposition (Approved, Denied or Pending). 
Policies and Procedures
  • NYCERS’ Board of Trustees supported a policy change to allow a pensioner who has retired from a WTC qualifying condition to subsequently request consideration to be found disabled from another WTC qualifying condition or conditions. This puts NYCERS’ WTC policies and procedures in line with NYC Police Pension Fund and NYC Fire Department Pension Fund policies with regard to submitting multiple WTC disability applications. This policy change benefits WTC disability pensioners in the following ways:
    • If a pensioner received a WTC disability pension based on a qualifying psychiatric condition and is subsequently determined to be disabled from a WTC qualifying physical condition or conditions, the pensioner may qualify for an economic loss award from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and other federal benefits. 
       
    • For titles entitled to health insurance under the WTC Accidental Death Benefit, the policy change may expedite an eligible beneficiary’s access to health insurance.
       
    • If a pensioner received a WTC disability pension based on a qualifying physical condition and is then determined to be disabled from a subsequent physical qualifying condition or conditions (e.g., first condition pulmonary, second condition cancer), and the pensioner dies from the subsequent physical condition(s), the policy change reduces the application processing time required for the WTC Accidental Death Benefit, since the pensioner already qualified for the WTC presumption based on the subsequent physical condition(s).
       
    • For titles entitled to health insurance under the WTC Accidental Death Benefit, the policy change may expedite an eligible beneficiary’s access to health insurance.
Medical Board and Independent Medical Examiners
  • We added three doctors to the Medical Board; however, we continue to be limited in the number of doctors that can be appointed by each of the three appointing authorities by NYC Administrative Code Section 13-123.
     
  • The Chair of the Medical Board is continuing his efforts to add more Independent Medical Examiners.
     
  • NYCERS worked with Dr. Michael Crane, Medical Director, WTC Health Program Clinical Center of Excellence at Mount Sinai and Medical Director, Selikoff Centers for Occupational Health, to arrange a meeting of NYCERS Medical Board and NYCERS staff with doctors who work with individuals who participate in the WTC Health programs to discuss their experiences and recommendations.  Dr. Crane was joined at this meeting by Dr. David Prezant, Chief Medical Officer for the FDNY, and Dr. Laura Crowley, Deputy Medical Director, Selikoff Centers for Occupational Health.
     
  • NYCERS worked with the Medical Board to improve their reports in order to more clearly explain the basis for their determinations.
Staffing
  • NYCERS’ Board of Trustees approved two additional staff requested in NYCERS’ Fiscal Year 2019 budget to provide for intensive case management of World Trade Center cases. This is particularly important, considering the more than 10,400 Notices of Participation filed. The number of World Trade Center disability applications is expected to rise over time as more members develop disabling conditions. NYCERS is in the process of hiring these additional positions.
Technology
  • It was recommended at the February Roundtable that NYCERS add a WTC section to our website.  At the end of March, the new WTC section went live on nycers.org with links to helpful information, forms and Federal WTC programs.  The summary of improvements that I reported at the February roundtable was posted in March.

    We were also asked about using technology to improve the interface between NYCERS, members, and their attorneys.
     
  • With the implementation of our Customer Relationship Management technology in late 2019, members will be able to use their MyNYCERS account to upload documents and obtain information. 
     
  • We will also be able to establish accounts for attorneys who have been authorized by the member to have access to information related to the processing of their disability case.
     
  • With regard to the WTC Review Committees mentioned above, we now allow interviews with these committees to take place via video conferencing for members who are unable to appear in person. 
     
  • We also accept videotaped testimony to assist in verifying participation from members who are terminally ill and not able to appear before the WTC Review Committee.
     
  • When members appear before the WTC Review Committee and bring medical evidence with them, have questions regarding the disability process, or advise that they are suffering from an illness, we set up a meeting with a counselor from the NYCERS Medical Division immediately following their interview with the committee, so that they can be counseled on the WTC disability process.
Miscellaneous
  • We also reviewed the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund’s (VCF) benefit models to see if the models could be simplified where benefits are the same for different plans.  Our review revealed that a few models could in fact be combined, and we provided VCF with our findings.   
     
  • At the request of one of NYCERS’ trustees, we added World Trade Center content to our member seminars.  I personally saw the benefit of this when a member approached me after I had presented the material and told me he had been sent by his employer to work the pile and has subsequently had two bouts of cancer and did not even know about these benefits.  He was walked through the process of applying for Verification of Participation.
     
  • We also developed WTC content and flyers that we have provided to unions and other advocacy groups to include in newsletters and member outreach.