WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) -- A lawyer experienced in Sept. 11 claims was named Wednesday to head the fund for rescue workers and others sickened by the terror attack and its aftermath.
Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Sheila Birnbaum special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, the U.S. Justice Department announced.
The fund, which operated from 2001 to 2003, was reactivated by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, passed at the end of last year. The law expands the pool of applicants to include first responders at the World Trade Center and others who showed health effects later.
Zadroga was a policeman who died in 2006 after Ground Zero exposure.
"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. The fund needs to get up and running quickly," Birnbaum said.
The $2.8 billion fund is to begin operating when the next fiscal year starts Oct. 1. Birnbaum plans to publish regulations to govern the program soon and take public comment over the summer.
Birnbaum previously mediated 92 wrongful death and personal injury cases stemming from the attack.