(c) 2016 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Health and Compensation Programs Passed Into Law After Almost Decade Long Fight Set to Expire This Year – Participants in 9/11 Health Program Living in All 50 States and 429 of 435 Congressional Districts

After nearly a decade long fight to stand by our first responders who answered the call of duty on September 11th, Congress finally fulfilled its moral obligation in late 2010 and provided our 9/11 heroes with the health care and financial compensation they deserved by passing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. With the Zadroga bill’s two critical programs – the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund – set to expire in October 2015 and October 2016 respectively a bipartisan group of lawmakers from across the country today introduced the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act to permanently extend these programs. Last month, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed an amendment to the Senate budget resolution that will facilitate future legislation to renew and extend the Zadroga Act.

Led by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), the bill was introduced in the Senate with 12 total cosponsors, including Senators Warren (D-MA), Blumenthal (D-CT), Sanders (D-VT), Menedez (D-NJ), Murphy (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Baldwin (D-WI) and Shaheen (D-NH). Led by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Peter King (R-NY) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY), the companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives 39 total original co-sponsors, including: Israel (D-NY), Meeks (D-NY), Meng (D-NY), Rangel (D-NY), Crowley (D-NY), Serrano (D-NY), Engel (D-NY), Lowey (D-NY), Higgins (D-NY), SP Maloney (D-NY), Tonko (D-NY), Jeffries (D-NY), Rice (D-NY), Katko (R-NY), Gibson (R-NY), Clarke (D-NY), Hanna (R-NY), Slaughter (D-NY), Velazquez (D-NY), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Pallone (D-NJ), MacArthur (R-NJ), DeLauro (D-CT), Himes (D-CT), Larson (D-CT), Esty (D-CT), Norton (D-DC), McGovern (D-VA), Connolly (D-VA), Sires (D-NJ), Courtney (D-CT), Pascrell (D-NJ), Grijalva (D-AZ), Vargas (D-CA), Cárdenas (D-CA), and Pocan (D-WI).

Nearly 14 years after September 11th, 9/11 responders and survivors are still battling serious health crises resulting from exposure to the toxins at Ground Zero. More than 33,000 9/11 responders and survivors have an illness or injury caused by the attacks or their aftermath, and over two-thirds of those have more than one illness. Many are disabled and can no longer work. They are suffering from a host of chronic diseases: asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, cancer and many more, caused by exposure to toxins and carcinogens at Ground Zero.

Responders came from all over the country to aid in the response to the attacks. And some area survivors, including area residents, workers and children harmed by the disaster, have since moved and are currently receiving care in cities and states across the country. Participants enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program for treatment currently reside in all 50 states and in 429 of the 435 Congressional Districts in the country.

“Nearly 14 years ago, we relied on our first responders to lead the rescue and recovery work at Ground Zero, in Shanksville and at the Pentagon – we cannot turn our back now when they need us most,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Just 4 years ago, Congress came together to ensure that the heroes of 9/11 – the first responders and survivors, including area residents, workers and children, who now live in all 50 states – receive the health care and compensation they deserve. I am proud to stand hand-in-hand with members from both sides of the aisle and from both chambers of Congress because it shouldn’t take another ‘Christmas Miracle’ for Congress to do the right thing and stand by our heroes.”

“170 Illinoisans are being cared for through these crucial 9/11 health programs, and those who helped lead Americans to safety deserve our continued care and support,” said Senator Mark Kirk. “This bipartisan group has stood by our heroes and Congress shouldn't hesitate to help provide vital health screenings and care to police, firefighters and EMS heroes who selflessly came to the rescue 14 years ago.”

“Alongside my New York colleagues, and a group of bipartisan Senators from states as far-flung as Illinois and Alaska, I will fight to renew and strengthen the health program that serves the first-responder heroes from 9/11,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer. “The people who rushed to the towers on 9/11 and in the days and weeks after are veterans of the ‘War on Terror,’ and in this country we take care of our veterans – no ‘ifs, ands, or buts.’”

“I’m proud to continue the work we started years ago standing up for 9/11 first responders and survivors,”Senator Baldwin said. “It is vitally important that we take action to permanently extend these programs so our 9/11 first responders and their families continue receiving the care they deserve.”

“Though September 11, 2001 remains the most momentous date for this nation in the 21st century for every American, the tragic events that day have meant a lingering, difficult reality today and every day for the first responders who face adverse health issues simply because they answered the call to duty and sought to protect their fellow man,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “Extending the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is about fulfilling our nation’s moral responsibility to the first responders from Alaska and every other state who responded to the events of September 11th at substantial risk to their own safety.”

“We made a promise on September 11th, not only to rebuild, and pursue justice against those who attacked us, but to care for the injured and their families, and the first responders and volunteers who risked everything to help others in the wake of the attacks,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “Our commitment to ‘never forget’ knew no bounds or party lines when joined in unison on the steps of the Capitol back in 2001, and it doesn’t today. Those who were there at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and Shanksville continue to suffer the consequences. We must let them know they are not alone - America stands with these heroes. We must reauthorize the Zadroga Act.”

“We will never forget those we lost on September 11th, and we will never forget the strength, bravery, and resilience our country demonstrated that morning,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “And we must never abandon the brave first responders and survivors who risked everything in the days, weeks, and months following the attacks to rebuild our city and their lives. Just as they did not hesitate to answer our call 14 years ago, we cannot turn our back on them now. We must reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.”

“With two critical programs set to expire within the next 18 months and still too many of our 9/11 responders and survivors continuing to fight serious illnesses, it is imperative that we renew and extend the Zadroga Act,” said Congressman Peter King. “We have come too far and we must continue to ensure that our 9/11 heroes receive the care they deserve.”

“We don’t leave our injured soldiers on the battlefield, and we certainly shouldn’t leave the 9/11 first responders who are at increased risk for cancer and other ailments with no funding,” said Congressman Charles Rangel. “While we can never fully express our gratitude for their sacrifices and patriotism, we can provide them the care they need and deserve. I am proud to stand alongside my dear friends and colleagues to stand up for the heroes who now most need our help."

“We have a moral responsibility to continue caring for those who honorably served our nation at a time of great need,” said Congressman Joe Crowley. “The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act has brought much-needed assistance to thousands of people and must be reauthorized to ensure that support will continue to be there. We simply can’t afford to quit on the men and women who wouldn’t quit on our country when we needed them most.”

“It’s essential that The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is extended so that the necessary assistance is provided to our 9/11 first responders,” said Congressman Lee Zeldin. “These brave men and women deserve the care and treatment they have earned for their selfless acts on September 11th, 2001. That’s why I co-sponsor the act and will be urging all of my colleagues to vote for it. After 9/11, we vowed to never forget; this is just one of the ways we can remember and help all of those who showed enormous amounts of courage and bravery in the aftermath of the attack on America."

“As a nation, we made a commitment to stand together and never forget the brave men and women who acted without hesitation to save thousands of lives on 9/11,” said Congressman Steve Israel. “It is our moral obligation to uphold this promise and extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act to ensure that these survivors continue to receive the medical treatment and support that they need and deserve.”

“Fourteen years after the 9/11 attacks, there are still thousands of first responders suffering the effects of the attacks that need our help,” said Congressman José E. Serrano. “We have a moral obligation to them for the service they paid our nation, and the James Zadroga Reauthorization Act will help ensure they continue to have access to the health care and financial support they deserve. I am proud to join colleagues from both sides of the aisle and all parts of the nation to introduce this important legislation in support of our 9/11 heroes.”

“I believe that allowing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to expire later this year, while so many first-responders and volunteers are still struggling with the health effects of 9/11, would be disgraceful,” said Congressman Eliot Engel, a senior member of the House Health Subcommittee. “Not renewing the Zadroga Act is an outrage to every first-responder, an insult to every man and woman who selflessly ran into those buildings that fateful day, and an affront to the memory of everyone who lost their lives. Congress has a moral obligation to renew this act.”

“In the days and months that followed 9/11, our first responders selflessly put their lives and health at risk,” said Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney. “With many of our heroes and survivors struggling with serious illnesses, it’s our duty to make a lifelong commitment to these men, women and children.”

“On September 11th, our brave first responders answered the call, and now, nearly 14 years after that horrible day, we must not turn our backs on the heroes who were sickened or injured while working at Ground Zero,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “We can never thank our first responders enough for all they did on 9/11 and all that they continue to do each and every day to keep us safe. Survivors and responders in New York and across the country continue to require critical medical care from the toxins that they were exposed to, and we must never, ever abandon them. I call on Congress to immediately renew and extend these vital programs.”

“If anything can unite Democrats and Republicans in Congress, it should be our commitment to the emergency responders who risked their lives to lead rescue and recovery efforts in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks,” said Congresswoman Kathleen Rice. “These men and women stepped up when we needed them, and they’re counting on us to do the same. They’re counting on us to come together, Democrats and Republicans from across the country, and ensure that they have the care and compensation they need, and they shouldn’t have to doubt that we’ll get it done.”

“In the aftermath of 9/11, New Yorkers joined with first responders and volunteers from across the nation at Ground Zero, working selflessly to help in any way possible,” Governor Cuomo said. “Those men and women stood up in our darkest hour, without concern for their own well-being, and we must continue to honor their service by providing the support they need through reauthorizing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. They deserve nothing less than our full and unwavering support.”

“Our first responders were there for us on 9/11 – and every day after. We have a moral obligation to continue to stand with them and ensure that they receive the health care and support they need and deserve,” saidNYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I’m proud to join this bipartisan coalition in support of our police officers, firefighters, medical professionals, and all of our first responders here and across the country, and thank all of the sponsors for their leadership. I urge Congress to quickly pass this vital reauthorization.”

“For almost 14 years, first responders have been dealing with the after effects of the 9/11 attacks,” saidHarold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “For many, this is a fight that will never end. It is our duty to honor those who worked in the terrible aftermath by making sure that the critical programs authorized by the Zadroga Bill are renewed.”

“The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) strongly supports the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act,” said William Johnson, Executive Director of the National Association of Police Organizations. “This legislation will not only reauthorize programs to provide critical medical treatment and compensation for 9/11 heroes, but it will also honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation. James Zadroga, a New York City Police Department Detective and member of NAPO, died of respiratory disease caused by his exposure to toxic chemicals at Ground Zero. It is our obligation and duty to remember these heroes and ensure that survivors who risked their lives to protect us continue to receive the treatment and compensation that they deserve.”

“In 2010, working together, we passed the 9/11 James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act, which has provided medical treatment and compensation to thousands of responders and residents who are sick from toxic exposures following the 9/11 attacks,” said Elizabeth Shuler, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer. “The programs set up under the law have saved lives. Unless Congress acts, these lifesaving programs will end next year. We can’t and won’t let this law expire. As a country, we owe the heroes of 9/11 the care and support they need and deserve. We must pass this bill to renew and extend the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.”

“Congress did the right thing in 2010 when it passed The Zadroga Act. Now, Congress must act quickly to renew and extend the vital benefits for the thousands of 9/11 responders and survivors who continue to battle for their lives and welfare,” said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. “The New York State AFL-CIO will coordinate with 49 other state federations across the country to secure bipartisan congressional support for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. The Labor Movement remains committed to ensuring that the people who are suffering as a result of their bravery and determination continue to receive the care and support they deserve.”

“Providing for those who sacrificed their health responding to the terrorist attacks of September 11th is not a ‘New York issue’—it’s a national obligation,” said Ed Mullins. President of the Sergeants Benevolent Association of the NYPD. “The long-term health effects that we are seeing from exposure to the deadly cocktail of toxins at Ground Zero are affecting brave people from all 50 states. Constituents in 429 of 435 Congressional Districts are affected. As a nation, we owe it to these heroes to do everything we can to honor the sacrifices they made in carrying out their sworn duty to protect and serve on that fateful day.”

“We challenge Congress to preserve History collectively as a body of caring Americans, not a body of ideological parties,” said John Feal, 9/11 Responder Advocate.

“Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act, on behalf of thousands of ill 9/11 responders and survivors want to thank our legislative champions who today are beginning the process to extend the programs that help so many stricken by the toxins at Ground Zero,” said James Slevin, Member, Board of Directors of Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act, James Slevin, Board Member Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act and Vice President, Uniformed Firefighters Association Local 94 IAFF, AFL-CIO. “I particularly want to thank Senators Murkowski, Kirk, Baldwin and the others who may represent states far from New York and Washington but have shown today that they truly have Not Forgotten 9/11 and the thousands who came from all across the U.S. to help.”

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act passed by Congress in 2010 helped ensure proper monitoring and treatment for thousands of men, women and children that face potential life-threatening health effects due to the toxins released at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Currently, over 33,000 responders and survivors across the nation have at least one illness or injury while many have multiple 9/11 conditions and are receiving critical treatment and medical care through the WTC Health Program. Over 60,000 9/11 responders and survivors are receiving medical monitoring. The program treats responders and survivors for many chronic diseases and respiratory illnesses, including asthma, sinusitis, obstructive pulmonary disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

The WTC Health Program continues to be a critical lifeline for many, particularly when the number of 9/11-related cancer cases among rescue workers and responders has increased over the past decade and continues to grow. So far, there are over 3,900 certified 9/11 cancers among the responders and survivors in the Health Program - including more than 950 New York City Fire Department members that have been diagnosed with 9/11-related cancers, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2012, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has added several types of cancers to the list of 9/11-related illnesses covered by the WTC Health Program. Studies show that 9/11 workers have gotten certain cancers – including prostate, thyroid, and multiple myeloma – at significantly higher rates than the general population.

Over 80 NYPD and over 100 FDNY personnel have reportedly died from their 9/11 illnesses since 9/11. More Police officers have died from their injuries since 9/11 than perished on 9/11.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which was reopened under the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Bill, provides compensation for economic losses to 9/11 responders and survivors and their families for physical injuries as a result of involvement in Ground Zero, including breathing in toxins. Since 2013, the VCF has deemed 4,415 injured 9/11 individuals eligible for compensation.

Numerous studies have documented the health effects of the WTC attacks, which include lower and upper respiratory, gastrointestinal, and mental health conditions. These illnesses have caused major financial strains on many of those exposed who are subsequently no longer able to work and would be forced to pay the high price of health care without this federally-funded national program.

The new James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act would:

Continue the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program. The World Trade Center Health Program administered by NIOSH would continue medical monitoring for 9/11-related illnesses for over 63,000 9/11 first responders and treatment for over 7,800 injured 9/11 survivors. Over 33,000 responders and survivors have at least one or more medical conditions as a result of their 9/11 exposure. Most of these conditions require chronic care. These conditions include severe respiratory diseases, chronic sinus problems, and psychological conditions such as PTSD. Over 3,900 incidences of WTC-related 9/11 cancers have been certified in program participants, including over 950 among people working for the NYC Fire Department, and more are expected.

Continue to Provide Monitoring and Treatment for Communities Throughout the Nation. The program would continue to provide medical monitoring and treatment for responders to the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Shanksville, PA crash site who live outside the New York metropolitan area. This legislation would continue that treatment for over 7,900 injured and ill 9/11 responders and survivors including responders who came to New York to provide assistance after 9/11 and those from New York who have moved out of the New York Metropolitan area. There are currently responders and survivors who are participating in the WTC Health Program from every state and from 429 of 435 Congressional Districts.

Continue the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). Under the bill the fund, which is scheduled to close on October 3rd 2016, would remain open and be fully funded to provide compensation for economic damages and loss for responders and survivors who were injured by exposure to the toxins at Ground Zero. To date, the Fund has determined 10,549 claimants eligible and has made compensation decisions for 4,415 injured and ill 9/11 responders and survivors for over a billion dollars in compensation. More are expected in the coming years due to the delayed onset of cancer from 9/11 exposure. But without legislation and sufficient funding, 9/11 injured responders will face having their compensation reduced by perhaps 50 percent and those who are diagnosed with cancer in future years would have NO compensation.

Make the programs permanent. Many of the responders and survivors have chronic WTC-related illnesses requiring long-term care. Some will have delayed onset of illnesses, especially cancers, due to 9/11 exposures. They will continue to need medical care and compensation. Making the programs permanent would be similar to legislation that was enacted providing medical and compensation benefits for workers at our nuclear facilities (EEOICPA).

Continue to New York City’s Cost Share. The City of New York would continue to contribute a 10 percent matching cost share of the total costs of the World Trade Center Health Program.

Continue to Research New Conditions. The legislation would continue research in diagnosing and treating WTC-related illnesses.

The current WTC Health Program and the reopened September 11th Victim Compensation Fund expire during the 114th Congress. If the legislation is not extended, these vital programs will end.

Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.