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N.J. first responders who volunteered at Ground Zero could get accidental disability pensions

Bill Ricci wasn’t on duty when he and 87 other firefighters from the Clifton Fire Department took buses to and from Ground Zero to assist with rescue and recovery efforts in the days and weeks after 9/11, he told state lawmakers Thursday.

Like many, he volunteered. And nearly 18 years later, his health has suffered for it.

Ricci said he has been diagnosed with sarcoidosis, a respiratory disease that caused fevers, pains, night sweats and difficulty breathing, he said. And after 20 years as a firefighter, he said he can no longer meet the physical demands of his job.

But because he volunteered at Ground Zero, Ricci said he doesn’t qualify for an accidental disability pension, equal to two-thirds of his salary.

“What’s always been understood is that there’s an unwritten bond between civil servants and their employers. That we will do what needs to be done at our own peril, but you need to take care of our family when that time comes. And that time has come,” Ricci told the state Senate Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.

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