Congress members unite in support of permanent and fully funded Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act extension
NEW YORK – Members of the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations today united at the site of the September 11 World Trade Center attacks to voice their opposition to new proposals that would make cuts to health care and compensation and only temporarily extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The House Energy and Commerce Committee Majority recently released a discussion draft of a bill to temporarily extend the World Trade Center Health program for a period of 5 years. A separate bill, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Majority members on Thursday, would temporarily extend the Victim Compensation Fund for five years, but at funding levels that could require as much as 60 percent cuts to the awards already promised to responders and survivors.
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Congressman Peter King (R-NY) introduced the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1786). The bipartisan bill to fully fund and permanently extend the health and compensation programs has broad, bipartisan support, with 241 House cosponsors, a clear majority. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer have introduced the same legislation in the Senate, and now have 62 cosponsors, a bipartisan and filibuster proof majority.
Maloney and Nadler were joined by House Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ), whose committee is directly responsible for considering the legislation, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY), Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) and numerous advocates including Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO, Steve Cassidy, President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 94, James Lemonda, President of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association and Jon Feal of the Feal Good Foundation. First responders and survivors whose lives depend on the Zadroga Act spoke about the need for the legislation to be permanent and fully funded.
“The cancers suffered by 9/11 responders aren’t five year cancers,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “Five years of health care won’t do. It should and must be permanent and fully funded. We must continue provided high-quality care to the heroes and heroines of 9/11. And we must provide the full compensation we promised. We cannot tell those who have already lost so much that the compensation they were promised will be cut by more than half. The Zadroga Act must be permanent and fully funded so that these brave men and women never again have to beg Congress for the care and compensation they need and deserve.”
“The Judiciary and Energy & Commerce Majorities have dropped a subpar, inadequate bill that ignores the needs of our 9/11 heroes,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “The new proposal came about without talking to any advocacy group of policemen, firefighters, or survivors; without talking to any of the Members of Congress who have worked on this issue for the last 14 years; and without taking into account the existing bill – the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act – which fully funds and permanently reauthorizes these life-saving programs. This proposal fails to live up to the promise we made to support the heroes of 9/11. I do not support it. My colleagues from New York do not support it. The heroes of 9/11 do not support it. There is already broad, bipartisan support from a majority in both the House and Senate for a permanent reauthorization of the Zadroga Act, and I hope my Republican colleagues will join us in passing this critical legislation.”
Congressman Peter King said: "The Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Bill must be reauthorized. This is an absolute moral obligation we owe to all the brave police officers, firefighters and construction workers who are suffering serious illnesses because of their recovery efforts at the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks. The current bill expired on Sept 30. Though there is enough money left to continue the program into next year, this will not be enough because there are more than 33,000 people who have 9/11 illnesses. Both House Committees who have jurisdiction over Zadroga agreed to introduce legislation reauthorizing it. That is the good news. The bad news is that these bills do not provide enough funding and only extend the programs for 5 years when we know the illnesses and the suffering are going to last beyond that. So the fight must go on. And I assure that I will not rest until justice is done."
“This proposed reauthorization of the Zadroga Act falls short of our responsibility to our first responders and their families,” said Congressman Frank Pallone. “Not only does this reauthorization fail to provide the certainty these heroes need and deserve, it asks our nation’s seniors on Medicare to offset the costs. 9/11 first responders were on the front lines that September morning, and a permanent reauthorization of the Zadroga Act is the least we can do to uphold our responsibility and commitment to these heroes.”
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez said: “We owe our first responders who sacrificed on 9/11 a profound debt of gratitude and that extends beyond just lip service. It is time to permanently reauthorize with adequate funding the programs that care for first responders’ health and that compensate other 9/11 victims. Anything less than that is unacceptable.”
Congressman Steve Israel said: “As a nation, we made a commitment to stand together and never forget the brave men and women who acted without hesitation on 9/11. It is our moral obligation to uphold this promise and not only extend but make permanent 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.”
"We will not allow Congress to turn their backs on the heroic men and women who put their lives on the line during the rescue, clean-up and recovery at Ground Zero," said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. "Progress was being made to ensure these men and women, including the many members of organized labor, get the critical benefits they so desperately need - permanently- without a cutoff date. Any attempts to stand in the way of that goal is unacceptable. These brave souls risked their own lives on that horrific day and for so many days after. Sadly, many of them, and their family members have paid a high price and many more will also suffer in the years to come. Congress must do the right thing by providing the health and compensation benefits they deserve. To do anything less is shameful and un-American."
“These bills are a slap in the face to everyone affected by 9/11/01 and its aftermath,” said Jon Feal. “It is outrageous that the Judiciary Chairman released a bill after refusing to speak with advocates or holding a hearing to appreciate the magnitude and devastation that 9/11/01 and its aftermath is still causing. The Judiciary and Energy and Commerce Committee 5-year bills do not even come close to what we need.”
“Make no mistake, the unfortunate result of this legislation would be accepting a huge cut to aid for sick and dying heroes that is shameful, even by Washington standards. Perhaps even more amazing, Congressman Goodlatte has long refused to hold a hearing on the issue – yet his bill somehow divines exactly how much aid disabled 9/11 responders need to care for themselves and their families,” said Richard Alles, FDNY Deputy Chief and Board Member of Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, lead sponsor of the Senate legislation to permanently extend the Zadroga Act said, "The cancers our brave first responders face don't expire and neither should their health care. These House committee proposals fall woefully short and were introduced without even consulting the first responders, their families or the advocates who have worked on this issue for years. This was an irresponsible move that will cause unnecessary consternation for thousands of first responders and their families who are already suffering. An overwhelming majority of 62 Senators and 241 House members already support permanently reauthorizing the 9/11 health and compensation programs, without an expiration day, and we owe it to our heroes to pass this legislation."
“Our 9/11 heroes deserve a fully-funded health monitoring and compensation program,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “It is a black mark on Congress that the Zadroga bill was ever allowed to expire, regardless of its ability to continue operation in the short-term. We need to write the check needed to fully fund healthcare for the injuries our first responders sustained in selfless service to this nation when we were under attack on 9/11.”
Congressman Charlie Rangel said: "The freedom we enjoy today is not free. 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 partial funding. We have an obligation to fully care for those who rose to the defense of our nation. ‘Never forge’ should be more than just a slogan."
Congressman Eliot Engel, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, said: "The time for half measures and stop gaps is long over; Congress needs to permanently reauthorize the Zadroga Act right now. This past September, Yonkers Police Officer Lt. Roy McLaughlin died from health complications related to his time aiding the cleanup after 9/11. We will never forget those who gave their lives saving others. And we must never forget the hundreds of thousands of first responders and volunteers who continue to suffer from 9/11 related health issues. Their debilitating conditions are not going to go away. Congress needs to finally make a complete commitment to helping these incredible men and women, and the only way to do that is to make permanent and fully fund 9/11 health programs."
Congressman Joe Crowley said: “Some seem to think that having more than 240 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and 61 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate means it’s instead time to start over. But what we need is not a step backward -- we need a vote. We need a vote on the legislation that makes permanent the promise of health care for our 9/11 heroes. We need a vote on the bill that provides the full resources to help those in need. Our 9/11 heroes deserve more than just words – they deserve action. But, that action must live up to the promise we made to our heroes to never, ever forget.”
Congresswoman Grace Meng said: "Our brave first responders answered the call on 9/11. Now, 14 years after that terrible day, we must not abandon them. We cannot accept anything less than a full and permanent extension of the Zadroga bill and I urge my colleagues in Congress to not abandon those who were sickened or injured while working at Ground Zero."
Congressman Daniel Donovan said, “After the attacks against America on September 11, 2001, selfless heroes rushed toward the death and destruction to help pick up the pieces. Many will pay for their heroism for the rest of their lives; some will pay for it with their life. Time doesn’t erase our moral imperative to cover their medical expenses – it is an extension of the costs of the attack. America’s heroes deserve a permanent reauthorization of the World Trade Center Health Program and the Victims Compensation Fund, and nothing less.”
On Thursday, October 29, 2015, Members of the Majority on the House Judiciary Committee, and the Energy and Commerce Committee Majority released two separate bills to temporarily extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act for just five years at insufficient funding levels. A majority of the House supports a permanent extension.
House Judiciary Action:
The House Judiciary Majority introduced the September 11th VCF Reauthorization and U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Compensation Act. The legislation would extend the Victim Compensation Fund for 5 years; however, there are two primary problems with the approach taken by the legislation:
- Slashes current awards by 60 percent: The legislation fails to address severe underfunding in the current program, which will result in current claimants receiving just 40 percent of their awards.
- Fails to make the program permanent: The legislation only extends the VCF for 5 years, when a majority of the House supports a permanent extension.
Energy and Commerce Action:
The House Energy and Commerce Committee Majority last week released a discussion draft of a bill that would temporarily extend the World Trade Center Health program for a period of 5 years. There are three primary problems with the legislation:
- Underfunds the health program: The bill establishes annual funding levels for the World Trade Center Health Program that fall below what is necessary to ensure all responders and survivors receive adequate health care. It would cut the funding levels established in H.R. 1786 by more than $456 million.
- Extension is temporary: The bill provides a 5-year reauthorization of the World Trade Center Health Program, even though a majority of Congress supports a permanent bill.
- Paid for by cutting Medicare benefits: The bill forces senior citizens to bear the cost of the World Trade Center Health Program, a pay for that has been repeatedly rejected by Congress.
Zadroga Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1786):
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) authored the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1786) with Congressman Peter King (R-NY). The legislation would permanently extend the World Trade Center Health Program and September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The programs were created by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which passed in December 2010, and was signed into law by President Obama in January 2011.
The World Trade Center Health Program authorization expired at the end of September, and funding will run out by September 30, 2016. In the meantime, the program is in the process of shutting down, creating anxiety for those in treatment, and problems for program administration, medical staff retention and continuity of care.
The Victim Compensation Fund, also authorized for five years by the 2010 Zadroga Act, will shut down by October 3, 2016 and will not be able to fully compensate 9/11 responders and survivors unless Congress extends the program and fully funds it.