9/11 faceoff

Ex-cop with cancer in new push for pension

'It's a matter of justice t's for this man whose been suffering for years.' -- Lawyer Jeffrey Goldberg, who represents Francisco Velez (left)
A LAWYER for a retired NYPD lieutenant who says he got cancer from working at Ground Zero after 9/11 will once again press officials to grant him a disability pension, his lawyer said Tuesday.
The city Police Pension Fund has twice denied Francisco Velez, 68, who suffers from throat cancer, a pension worth 75% of his final salary tax-free -- even though the NYPD's medical board has approved Velez three times.
The fund has argued that Velez hasn't fully confirmed he was at the site within 48 hours of the terrorist attack.
But Velez's lawyer, Jeffrey Goldberg, counters that his client's commanding officer at the time, retired Deputy Inspector Donald Conceicao, has provided an affidavit to confirm he was there in the required time frame.
"He was at Battery Park on Sept. 12, 2001, and he worked numerous tours at Ground Zero after the terrorist attack, including Sept. 18, 2001, and Oct. 16, 2001, which have been verified by the Police Pension Fund," Goldberg wrote in a Jan. 9 letter to the fund.
In March 2015, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund found Velez qualified for benefits because of his metastatic tonsillar carcinoma, records show.
"It's a matter of justice for this man who's been suffering for years," Goldberg said. "He's had surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and he's still debilitated from all he's gone through."
Velez garnered attention in January 2016 after he disclosed that evidence recovered from the 1972 East Village ambush murders of Officers Rocco Laurie and Greg Foster has disappeared, bringing the investigation to a standstill.
Ironically, records that would have proven Velez was at Ground Zero were lost or destroyed by a fire in an NYPD storage facility.
Goldberg said Velez was able to refile his petition because the fund recently loosened its stance on accepting affidavits from commanders in lieu of actual records.
"They changed their attitude on accepting affidavits and started accepting them from higherranking officers, and that's why we filed again," he said. Lieutenants Benevolent Association President Lou Turco, who sits on the pension fund board, said the panel should finally be satisfied.
"He has a letter from his commanding officer saying he was there on 9/12, and I think that should be sufficient," Turco said. "Our members ran to Ground Zero, and our purpose wasn't documentation that we were there. We didn't think we would need it for the future."

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