WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department appointed a well-known New York attorney Wednesday to run the fund that will be used to compensate ground zero workers who say they're suffering illnesses as a result of their work in the wreckage of the Sept. 11 terror attacks."Sheila Birnbaum brings extensive experience, credibility and unique insight to this important role," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "She has worked closely with, and won the trust of, the families of 9/11 victims with whom she worked. I know that under her direction, the fund will be administered in a manner that is sensitive and fair to those who have suffered so much from the September 11th attacks."Birnbaum previously served as the mediator in lawsuits brought by families of the victims of Sept. 11 attack, working to reach a settlement of $500 million for 92 families of victims of the attacks."My first priority will be to sit down with the people who will be most affected by the program, and see how we can design a program that is fair, transparent and easy to navigate," Birnbaum said in the Justice Department statement announcing her appointment. "The fund needs to get up and running quickly. At the same time, I want to make sure we do it right."Last December, Congress passed a bill to provide up to $4.2 billion in new aid to survivors of the September 2001 terrorism attack on the World Trade Center and responders who became ill working in its ruins. The package provides $1.5 billion to monitor the health of rescue and cleanup workers and treat illnesses related to ground zero. It also reopens a victims' compensation fund with $2.7 billion that Birnbaum will administer. President Obama signed it into law in January.New York lawmakers who played key roles in crafting the bill said Birnbaum has her work cut out for her."It's welcome news that the Justice Department has finally named a special master - but now the hard work really begins," New York Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Peter King said in a joint statement. "In a matter of weeks, the program is supposed to start and the special master will need to draft and release for public comment regulations on which individuals and injuries are eligible for compensation. This is vitally important work, and much is at stake."The measure reactivates the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund that operated from 2001-2003, expanding the pool of applicants to include first responders and other individuals who experienced latent physical injuries associated with the attacks or with debris removal.



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