First responders and recovery workers who rushed to the scene on 9/11 have been embroiled in a long battle to receive payments for the medical treatment required due to their time at Ground Zero, and late last month the first group of recipients was paid – nearly 12 years after the attacks. The benefits were given to 14 firefighters and one corrections officer, and while it’s an important step forward, advocates for the first responders say it’s long overdue, according to

The payments ranged from $10,000 to $1.5 million and were a result of the much-discussed Zadroga Act, which provided $4.3 billion to compensate the workers who became sick after responding on 9/11. However, despite it being signed into law more than two years ago, the payouts were slow as advocates fought to add some cancers to the list of covered diseases. 

“I’m happy to see the wheels of justice finally turning, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” John Feal, who was part of the 9/11 process, told the website. “I’m happy, but there were also nine first responders who died in January because of cancer and respiratory illness who weren’t able to benefit from this fund.”

The first payments come shortly after a recent analysis revealed that firefighters who were at Ground Zero were at a much greater risk for a number of diseases. Specifically, the rate of prostate cancer was about 40 percent higher than the average population among the more than 9,800 firefighters working in New York City.