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

J. K. Niles, M. P. Webber, J. Gustave, R. Zeig-Owens, R. Lee, L. Glass, M. D. Weiden, K. J. Kelly, D. J. Prezant

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12 Scopus citations


Background: 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. Methods: 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. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)672-680
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Industrial Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2011



  • Disability
  • Firefighters
  • Retirement
  • World Trade Center

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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