65-2 #4 January 29, 2002

Union Issues, Events & Benefits

  • Joint Letter From UFA/UFOA To WTC Families
  • Letter To All Members Of Congress 1/15/02
  • Fire/Police Hockey Game At Madison Square Garden
  • Corporate Movie Club - Discount Tickets Always Available
  • 2002 King Of The Ice
  • Family Liaisons
  • Junior Brothers Meeting

Joint Letter From UFA/UFOA To WTC Families
There has been a great deal of unhappiness and confusion over the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund established by Congress. We are writing to update you on steps that we are taking to deal with many of the issues that have been raised.

Many people are under the misimpression that there is a deadline of January 21 to submit a claim. The actual deadline to do so is almost two years away. January 21 is the date on which comments are due on the regulations implementing the law.

Counsel for both the UFOA and UFA are submitting comments on the regulations. While they will address a number of important issues about how the Fund will be administered, the major problem that we face is with the terms of the law, written by Congress, which require the reduction of any award by pension and insurance payments. We have asked the International Association of Firefighters to seek a legislative amendment removing that reduction or offset and making other changes in the law. They are consulting with their lobbyists and considering how to proceed. As you may know, many people feel that the mood in Congress is no longer receptive to support changes in the Victims Compensation Fund that might result in greater benefits for the affected families.

The wording of the current regulations results in offsets for members of the FDNY that may wipe out any award. Never the less we have been advised that a minimum award of $250,000, plus $50,000 per dependent, is likely. We have also been advised that the special master administering the law may consider arguments that would increase awards to our members' families. Toward this end, the UFA and the UFOA attorneys will be consulting with the special master so that we can determine the nature and scope of the awards that would be rendered on behalf of our members. For instance, that portion of our pensions that we pay for may not count as an offset. The special master will address many of these issues with us.

It will probably take about sixty days for us to determine better how this Fund will work and what the foreseeable range of awards to you might be. In the mean time we urge you not to file any litigation or any claim with the Fund. When we receive more and better information as to how it will work -- and we are in the process of getting that information from the special master – we will communicate with you. At that time you can better consider your alternatives and decide what course you choose to take.

We know that there are many rumors and a lot of misinformation out there about what is happening or what people should be doing. We are committed on your behalf to get you all of the information possible with which you can make an informed decision.

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Letter To All Members Of Congress 1/15/02
As President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the union representing New York City's Bravest, I am writing to urgently request that you amend the current language of the 'Air Transportation Safety & System Stabilization Act.' The Act created the 'September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001.' The Fund was intended to provide reasonable compensation to the victims and families of those injured and lost as a result of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks on this Nation.

In creating an uncapped Fund as a substitute for the need to seek personal injury and wrongful death damages through litigation, Congress meant to establish a reasonable counterbalance to provide the airline industry immunity from judgements in excess of their insurance coverage.

Unfortunately, and perhaps as a result of the haste in which the Act was passed, immediate adjustments are needed to achieve an equitable scheme.

Our major objection to the current statutory language is the definition of 'collateral source' contained in Section 402 of the Act. The statute specifically includes 'life insurance' and 'pension funds' as part of that definition. Collateral sources are deducted from any award to be made to the victims or their families.

With regard to the 'pension funds,' New York City firefighters and police officers work long and hard in very dangerous jobs at modest pay. One of the few generous benefits they receive are pensions for their families if they are killed in the line-of-duty. The statute, as drafted, however, penalizes those families for this well-earned benefit. As interpreted by the Special Master assigned to administer the Act, the value of future pension payments will negate all, or a significant portion, of any award they might be entitled to as wrongful death damages. Coupled with deductions for life insurance and benefits provided by the Public Safety Officers Law, the present collateral source calculations render the Act meaningless to most, if not all, of the families of the 343 brave firefighters and fire officers who were lost on September 11, 2001.

Accordingly, I respectfully request that the reference to 'pension funds' be eliminated from the definition of collateral sources in the statute.

Similarly, the deduction of life insurance benefits from a damage award again penalizes families having the foresight to obtain such insurance. I note that life insurance is not considered a collateral source under New York law. Nor should it be considered a collateral source under the Act.

Finally, the Special Master has announced that the determination of appropriate beneficiaries under the Act shall be made in accordance with the applicable State law. In New York, as well as other states, this would exclude domestic partners from any award. In New York City, we have a local provision permitting non-married couples to officially note their relationship by registering as domestic partners. I submit that the Act should contain language putting ' registered domestic partners' on equal footing with a spouse for the purpose of receiving benefits under the Act.

The Victim Compensation Fund should not be an illusory benefit for the families of the brave firefighters, fire officers and others who made the supreme sacrifice to rescue more than 25,000 citizens. I am fearful that without the above noted changes, that unfortunate result will be achieved.

If you have any questions concerning the above, please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned. Thank you very much for your consideration.

Respectfully yours, KEVIN E. GALLAGHER

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Fire/Police Hockey Game At Madison Square Garden
This year's FD/PD Hockey clash will be held on Saturday night March 2nd at (new location) Madison Square Garden. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and game scheduled for 7:30 p.m. This will surely sell out, so get your tickets early. Only $15 each - available from team members or box office.

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Corporate Movie Club - Discount Tickets Always Available
For years, the Corporate Movie Club has offered UFA families savings of up to 33% on movie tickets at 9 national theater chains, and more recently for Blockbuster Video Rentals. Now, they provide discount savings ($4 - $12 off) on ski tickets at resorts nationwide. Order tickets by mail, or request more forms by calling (800) 565-3712, or their secure website www.corporatemovieclub.com. All you need is the UFA company code CORP073101 and member ID # 99042621M. Keep the enclosed flyers readily available on your firehouse bulletin board.

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2002 King Of The Ice
The largest fire department hockey tournament in the United States is scheduled to begin the week of March 18th. If your firehouse is interested in participating, please contact Patrick Cleary, Ladder Company 43, at 516-650 7719. The deadline for entry is March 1st and the entry fee is $300 per team.

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Family Liaisons
The Family Liaison Support Groups at the C.S.U. will be postponed until further notice. However, if any liaison has any questions, please call Phil Duncan or John Marchini at (212) 570-1693 to schedule an appointment. Any liaison who wants to be placed on our mailing list, please call us with your name and address. In the near future, a one day program will be offered to assist the liaisons in helping the families become more independent.

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Junior Brothers Meeting
The Counseling Services Unit recognizes this as being a very difficult time to begin your career in the department. With this is mind C.S.U. would like to announce a meeting of fellow brothers from your academy class. This meeting will include an educational presentation and discussion of the effects September 11th has had on you and your families. The meetings will take place at Fort Totten, Building 413B. Please note dates and times. Contact Liza at 212-570-4271 if you have any questions. Academy Class 05/06/01 will be held on Wednesday, January 30th. Class 02/04/01 will be held on Friday, February 1st. Class 10/02/00 will be held on Wednesday, February 6th. Class 02/01/00 will be held on Friday, February 8th. Class 11/14/99 will be held on Monday, February 11th. Class 08/08/99 will be held on Friday, February 15th. Class 05/09/99 will be held on Wednesday, February 20th. All classes are from 1 - 4 p.m.

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Fraternally,

WILLIAM F. MIRRO
Recording Secretary,

KEVIN E. GALLAGHER
President