Key House panel considers Maloney, Nadler, King Bill to extend 9/11 health and compensation programs for survivors and first responders
WASHINGTON— Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee held a hearing on the proposed James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1786), a permanent extension of the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Nearly 14 years after September 11th, thousands of first responders and survivors are still struggling to rebuild their lives, and many continue to battle serious health crises resulting from exposure to toxins at Ground Zero. But the programs established to help them wage that battle are set to shut down by October 2016 unless Congress passes the bipartisan legislation sponsored by Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Peter T. King (R-NY).
“After the attacks, thousands of Americans flocked to ground zero to aid in the recovery,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney. “Today, people in all 50 states bear the physical and emotional scars of their courageous efforts. They suffer from cancers, respiratory problems, and a range of other diseases related to their exposure at to the toxic soup of chemicals and pollutants at Ground Zero. I applaud Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, Ranking Member Frank Pallone, as well as Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts and Ranking Member Gene Green for shining a spotlight on these critical programs. Today’s hearing is the first step down the long road toward a permanent extension of the Zadroga Act.”
“September 11th is a day that remains etched in the minds of all Americans – a day of loss, of bravery and resilience in the face of unprecedented terror,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler. “Fourteen years after that fateful day, we honor the memories of those who lost their lives and remain vigilant in making sure that the sacrifices of first responders and survivors, who put their own lives at risk in the days, weeks and months that followed, will not be forgotten. The men and women who risked their lives to save others and help rebuild our city deserve our gratitude and support, and Congress must reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to demonstrate our commitment.”
“Nationwide, 9/11 responders and survivors are suffering from health conditions caused by their exposure to toxins at Ground Zero,” said Rep. Peter T. King. “I am grateful that the House Energy and Commerce Committee has recognized that the programs created through passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 must be extended.”
The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee heard testimony from two 9/11 heroes who urged Congress to extend the programs that are helping people in all 50 states manage 9/11-related illnesses and rebuild their lives.
“There is no question in my mind that if it were not for the 9/11 Health Care Program and Dr. Udasin in particular, I would not be sitting here in this chair today,” said David Howley, a retired NYC Police Officer who has battled a host of ailments, including cancer. “What happened on September 11, 2001 with concern to the mixture of concrete, glass, chemicals etc. plus the fire at temp over two thousand degrees had never before occurred in history. As a result, the illnesses and cancers that have occurred had not previously been seen by the medical community. The men and woman who worked tirelessly, day and night at the towers and then became sick have every reason to expect their country will provide assistance to them, the same way they provided assistance and protection to the people of the New York City.”
Barbara Burnette, a former New York Police Detective testified about her experience: “My career came to an end because of illnesses I developed from the time I served at the World Trade Center site. I live with the consequences of 9-11 every day. I have been diagnosed with interstitial lung disease, more specifically hypersensitivity pneumonitis with fibrosis in my lungs. I have failed the pulmonary function tests that doctors have given me. The inflammation in my lungs interferes with my breathing and destroys the tissues that get oxygen to my blood. My lungs are permanently scarred. I cannot move around my home without wheezing or gasping for breath. I take large doses of steroids that add to my weight. I start each morning connecting to a nebulizer and inhaling multiple doses of medications. I am told I will eventually need a lung transplant. The James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act is a lifesaver for me and thousands of other first responders and 9-11 survivors.
“Before the 9/11 attacks, I was a healthy 28 year old paralegal working about a 10 minute walk from the World Trade Center. I evacuated from my office shortly after the North Tower collapsed and returned to work one week after 9/11, determined to do the right thing during a time of national crisis,” said Margily Garcia, an affected area worker and patient in the survivor program in the World Trade Center Environmental Health Center. “The dust and chemicals I inhaled on 9/11 and in the days thereafter permanently impaired my health and I know I will never be like I was before. I have been diagnosed with chronic asthma, sinus inflammation, and my heart has been scarred by sarcoidosis which has meant that I live with the possibility of a sudden death and rely on a pacemaker/defibrillator to help keep me alive. My story is just one example of the thousands of survivors and responders being treated through the federally funded programs. Our very lives depend on having the specialized expert care provided through the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act be reliable and always available for us.”
The 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 may have 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 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.