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One Fund Not Like the Others 

  Before his handling of all claims related to the BP oil disaster, Kenneth Feinberg and his law firm handled the claims of the 9/11 Victims Compensation and Agent Orange Settlement funds. According to a report by Advocates for Environmental Human Rights (AEHR), the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) — which serve as Feinberg's claims processing points in the field — are unlike their predecessors in one very important respect: The report found that, unlike the 9/11 and Agent Orange funds, the GCCF has denied all health-related claims, citing "lack of medical proof of causation."

  Established in 1984 to aid Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange, the Agent Orange settlement fund received 105,000 health claims. It awarded 52,000 claims, totaling almost $200 million. The 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund received 42,000 health claims, and the fund awarded $380 million to 2,425 of those applicants. Neither funds required applicants to provide any medical proof of their claims. Feinberg has, however, turned down more than 200 applicants with health-related claims in the wake of last year's oil disaster, and the GCCF requires applicants to provide proof of medical causation.

  (Gambit contacted the offices of Feinberg-Rozen, Feinberg's Washington D.C.-based law firm, for comment, but received no reply as of press time.)

  From July to October 2010, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Tulane University's Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy performed a health survey of residents in Terrebonne, Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes. The survey found more than three-quarters of respondents claimed respiratory and eye irritation, yet only 54 percent of respondents had health insurance, and just 31 percent sought treatment.

  The AEHR report concludes, "It should be sufficient evidence for GCCF claimants to show that they were in the vicinity of BP's toxic crude oil and/or chemical dispersants and have a medically diagnosed illness or disability. People of the Gulf Region deserve the same treatment as people who received compensation for their toxic exposure-related illnesses from the Agent Orange Settlement Fund and the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. Anything less denies their human right to health." — Alex Woodward

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