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DOE Alerting Students Who Survived 9/11 Attacks About Available Health Benefits, Compensation

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The New York City Department of Education is reaching out to support the students of 9/11.

Just like first responders, the public school students who survived the attacks have a right to free health care and compensation.

Michele Hirsch was a senior at Stuyvesant High School 18 years ago when the Twin Towers fell just three blocks away.

"I'm really glad that, although it's been a lot of years that they could have been telling people about it, that they're finally alerting former students to the fact that there are services," she said.

She's not just a survivor of 9/11, but a cancer survivor too.

"I myself have gotten from the federal government both compensation for my cancer that was related to 9/11 and also ongoing health services," she said.

Hirsch told CBS2's Vanessa Murdock that a friend who is an advocate for student survivors informed her she's eligible for help.

"Otherwise, I would not have known," Hirsch said.

She wants other students know the truth.

"They do have access to this, even if they have gone all these years without knowing about it," she said.

Now, the NYC DOE will do its part to spread the word.

NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza recently announced the city will reach out to 19,000 former public school students who went to school near Ground Zero to let them know they're entitled to the same health benefits and compensation that first responders are.

A letter will be sent to students' last known addresses. It will contain information on the World Trade Center Health Program, 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and where to access more information. Social media will be put to task too.

"We're working with others to make sure that outreach is done. We want to make sure anyone who needs help gets it," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Michael Barasch and his law firm represent 65 former students with 9/11-related cancers.

"I think that's just the tip of the iceberg," he said.

The letters will be sent out this week.

The DOE is also working with the United Federation of Teachers to reach out to the 3,000 teachers who worked at public schools near Ground Zero.

There will be an information session on Oct. 28 to raise awareness.

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