Members of Congress fight to pass 9/11 Health and Compensation extension before Congressional recess
WASHINGTON – Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney and more than a dozen federal lawmakers today joined September 11 survivors and responders on Capitol Hill to push for an extension of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Unless Congress acts, the World Trade Center Health Program and September 11th Victim Compensation Fund will shut down, leaving tens of thousands of survivors and responders with the care and compensation they deserve.
The Members of Congress present included Maloney and Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Peter King, Charles Rangel, Nita Lowey, José Serrano, Nydia Velázquez, Joseph Crowely, Steve Israel, Paul Tonko, Richard Hanna, Sean Patrick Maloney, Grace Meng, and Kathleen Rice, Lee Zeldin, Chris Collins, and Dan Donovan. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, who are leading the effort in the Senate, were also present.
Recording Artist and Activist Carole King, whose father was a firefighter, opened the event. Comedian Jon Stewart, formerly of the Daily Show, closed it out. Representatives from Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act, 9/11 advocate John Feal, FNDY Deputy Chief Richard Alles and fellow first responders and survivors all called on the Senate and House to extend and fully fund the bipartisan James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act by year’s end.
The press conference occurred as Congress worked to wrap-up its remaining agenda items for the year. With the end of session approaching, time is running out to renew and fully-fund programs that provide health care and compensation to 9/11 first responders and survivors. Despite widespread bipartisan support including 261 co-sponsors in the House and 66 in the Senate, Congressional leaders have failed to bring the reauthorization bill to a vote. As a result of their inaction, tens of thousands of men and women from all 50 states and 433 of 435 congressional districts have been forced to live in fear that the programs on which their lives depend will be torn away from them and their families.
“We’re making progress, but we’re not going to stop until we fully extend the Zadroga Act,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY). “Those who were there and those who rushed in on and after September 11th deserve a Congress that has their back. We’ve made great progress, and if we keep fighting I know we can get this done. Don’t let Congress leave for the Holidays without taking care of first responders first.”
“We have been working together for over a year to get this Zadroga reauthorization done -- we have the language ready, we have the votes ready, it’s time for Congressional leadership to act and pass this bill before the end of the year,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). “In 2010, we finally passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, providing health care and compensation to the responders and survivors of the September 11 attack. Congress must take action now to ensure that we continue to honor our promise because the heroes and survivors here today cannot wait any longer. This bill must pass before the end of the year, and I call on my colleagues to get it done.”
"It is absolutely essential that Zadroga be reauthorized without delay,” said Congressman Peter King (R-NY)
“Playing politics with people’s lives must stop immediately,” said Congressman Frank Pallone, Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee (D-NJ). “Our 9/11 first responders answered the call of duty when we needed them most, yet some Members of Congress are holding up a permanent reauthorization of the Zadroga 9/11 health bill. They are essentially are saying that we should not continue to provide them with the care they need and deserve. It is simply unacceptable. Let’s get this done and uphold our nation’s responsibility to our 9/11 heroes.”
“We’ve been constantly engaged with House leadership, including Speaker Ryan, Leader McCarthy, Whip Scalise, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Upton, and House Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte. Everyone agrees that Zadroga must and will be reauthorized. In fact, just yesterday, Chairman Upton agreed that we must ‘end the uncertainty by permanently and responsibly extending this critical program.’ When we began negotiations, a 5-year extension was on the table, so it’s clear how far we’ve come. It’s not important whether the reauthorization is in the transportation bill or the omnibus bill or the tax extenders package – what matters is that Zadroga gets reauthorized at a funding level that assures that each and every hero is given his or her deserved coverage, no matter what. We’re almost there.” Congressman Dan Donovan, (R-NY)
“In the last month alone, we lost seven more 9/11 first responders to diseases that can be traced back to the toxins at Ground Zero. How many more of our heroes need to die before congress recognizes the urgency of permanently reauthorizing the Zadroga 9/11 health and compensation program?" said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). "Two-thirds of the Senate and a majority of the House publicly support our bill – and no one publicly opposes it. Congress has a moral obligation to permanently reauthorize the 9/11 health program. We must pass this bill.”
“It is simply a black mark on Congress that the Zadroga bill was ever allowed to expire in the first place. Even worse would be for members of Congress to head home to spend the holidays with their families while the families of our 9/11 heroes spend the holidays wondering if and when their health benefits will dry up. We have to reauthorize the 9/11 Health Program, and make it permanent. I will not rest until that happens. And I know that Sen. Gillibrand, Jon Stewart, John Feal and the many others who stand with us today will not rest until we cross the finish line.” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, (D-NY)
Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) said: “Although 14 years have passed since the terrorist attacks, our work towards rebuilding our nation and strengthening our homeland security isn't over. We don’t leave our injured soldiers on the battlefield, and we certainly shouldn’t leave the 9/11 first responders suffering from ailments with no funding. While we can never fully express our gratitude for their heroism, we must provide them the care they need and deserve. Let us meet our obligation to those who sacrificed to defend our freedom.”
“Enactment of legislation to extend the commitment we made to provide much-needed health coverage for injuries sustained during the rescue, recovery and clean-up of Ground Zero is overdue,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R- NJ). “Congress must act to honor the brave men and women in New Jersey and around the country who responded to the horrific 9/11 attacks by permanently reauthorizing the Zadroga Act’s provisions.”
Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said: “There’s no reasonable explanation for the shameful delay in extending health care and benefits to survivors and first responders who risked their lives to save others on 9/11. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act deserves a vote in Congress immediately to help thousands who have been diagnosed with illnesses and disease, and many more who may be diagnosed in the years ahead. As Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, I will continue working to deliver the treatments our 9/11 first responders deserve.”
“Time is running out to pass the Zadroga reauthorization act before the end of the year. We owe it to the first responders, volunteers, and survivors of 9/11 to ensure they continue having access to the medical care and economic support they need to lead healthy and productive lives. This is not only a New York City issue, these heroes live all over the nation. It’s time for Congress to act,” said Congressman Jose Serrano (D-NY)
Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) said: “It would be unconscionable to turn our back on 9/11 first responders who sacrificed for the rest of us. This should not be a partisan issue and Congress must extend these programs before the end of the year with full funding for victims and first responders.”
"The selfless heroes of Ground Zero should, under no circumstances, be left holding the bag for their medical costs. We have built broad, bipartisan support to meet this venerable duty of ours and our goal is within sight," said Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who represents North Arlington, the hometown of James Zadroga. "Congress must do right by our heroes and continue the progress we have made since the law’s initial passage. We will not rest until the Zadroga 9/11 Health Reauthorization Act is signed by the President."
“On September 11th, firefighters, police officers and rescue crews rushed to Ground Zero. Too many never returned, and those who did, often came back with what would be serious, chronic health conditions. My colleagues in Congress from all over the country promised that we would stand with those first responders, cleanup workers, and volunteers. We promised that we would take care of those who took care of us, and we promised we would never forget. And now we need to turn those words into action, pass legislation to extend the Zadroga Act programs, and do right by our 9/11 heroes. They did their jobs on September 11th, and now we must do ours,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY).
“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. 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,” said Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY).
“In the wake of the terrible tragedy that affected every corner in every community of this nation on September 11th, 2001, first responders from every state ran toward collapsing towers to save their fellow Americans. We can never repay the debt owed to these heroes and their loved ones, but we must do all we can to ensure they have access to proper health care and medical monitoring. If Congress doesn’t act, programs that support these heroes will expire, leaving more than 70,000 first responders and survivors without the care they need,” said Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY).
“We know that tens of thousands of first responders and survivors across the country suffer from at least one 9/11-related illness or injury,” Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) said. “Many have multiple, severe illnesses that impact their lives every day, including 4,000 responders and survivors with cancer. What we need to do as a nation is care for these men and women who served so bravely at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001 and in the days and years after. Congress needs to move with urgency and permanently reauthorize this program.”
“The survivors and first responders of 9/11 have endured numerous life-threatening ailments, and we have an obligation to honor their sacrifices by reauthorizing the Zadroga Act,” said Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10). “To not extend and fully fund the Zadroga Act would be to abandon our promise to take care of those who risked their lives to take care of us.”
“Our first responders put their lives on the line to protect us during 9/11,” said Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY). “We must provide them the certainty they deserve regarding their health care benefits by extending and fully funding the Zadroga Act.”
“Fourteen years after the September 11th attacks, we remember the selfless men and women who bravely risked their lives in the aftermath of the attack. These first responders embody the unbreakable spirit of New Yorkers and the best of the United States of America. They deserve our best in return. We must reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Act to ensure that no hero is forgotten,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY).
“If there’s anything that both parties in Congress can agree on, it should be that we have a responsibility to take care of the heroes who risked their lives to save others on September 11th,” said Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY). “Thousands of first responders are suffering right now because of the sacrifices they made that day, and thousands more need regular monitoring to ensure that any 9/11-related illnesses are detected and treated as quickly as possible. They rely on these programs, they are counting on us to renew them before the end of the year, and we cannot let them down.”
“Over the last several months, we’ve heard a number of kind words from Members of Congress about first responders and there service on and after September 11, 2001, but quite frankly we’ve had enough of the platitudes. It’s time for Congress to do its job,” said Richard Alles, Deputy Chief FDNY, Board Member Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act. “The Zadroga Act has already expired; the clock is ticking. We are counting on Congress to step-up and renew health care and compensation now.”
“What many see as a setback, I see as a set up for our bill to get done next week. This is our story, and we write our own story,” said 9/11 Advocate John Feal.
“I am awed by the efforts of so many fire fighters, police officers, and other individual workers and their unions who have been walking the halls of Congress for months securing support from their representatives. I hope Congress hears our voices today… and the voices of a nation that appreciates the service of the many fire fighters, police officers, and workers who were there that terrible day and worked on that pile for months thereafter. We’ve had enough debate. Now is the time to act,” said International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold Schaitberger.
"Thousands of brave men and women never gave it a second thought when they risked their own lives to help in the rescue and recovery after 9/11," said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. "Congress recognized their acts of heroism in 2010 by passing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Now, before they leave for the holidays to enjoy time with their families, they must follow through and renew and fully fund these critical health care and compensation programs. It's the right thing to do and will finally give first responders, survivors, and their families the relief they so desperately need."
"On 9/11, first responders rushed to the World Trade Center without thinking twice about what would happen to them. In the months after, they continued to put their lives at risk doing rescue and recovery work at Ground Zero. They were just doing their jobs and they would do it again," said Michael McHale, President of the National Association of Police Organizations. "Congress now has to do its job and show these men and women who have sacrificed so much for their country that their government supports them by fully funding and extending the Zadroga Act."
"As a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am disheartened I have to continue to beg Congress to support this simple bill," said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Chief Policy Officer Matt Miller. "Unfortunately, Congress allowed the act to expire in October 2015, turning their backs to the 9/11 families, first-responders and veterans who answered the call to serve in those dark days and during the last 14 years. Our country has an obligation to support these true American heroes and their families. We urge every single lawmaker on Capitol Hill to put aside their partisan politics aside and support the continuation of the Zadroga Act before the end of 2015."
BACKGROUND ON THE 9/11 HEALTH CRISIS
As the nation recovered from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a public health disaster was just beginning to unfold. After 9/11, Americans from all 50 states rushed to Ground Zero to assist with the rescue and recovery effort. Thousands of brave men and women risked their lives to help others, working in extremely hazardous conditions often without proper protective equipment while the Federal Government assured them that the air was safe. Many were injured in the course of this work.
Rescue and recovery workers breathed in a toxic stew of chemicals, asbestos, pulverized cement, and other health hazards released into the air when the towers fell, and as the site smoldered for months. The dust cloud that rolled through lower Manhattan after the attacks settled in homes, offices, and buildings – exposing tens of thousands more residents, students area workers to the same toxins.
Today, more than 33,000 9/11 responders and survivors are struggling with illnesses or injuries caused by the attacks. They live in every state and 433 out of 435 Congressional districts nationwide. Many are disabled and can no longer work. They are suffering from a host of chronic diseases: asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disease, to name but a few. Medical research has identified more than 50 types of cancer caused by 9/11 toxins. At least 4,166 people have been diagnosed with cancers caused or made worse by 9/11 – a number that is sure to grow in the years to come.
To date over 94 NYPD police officers have reportedly died from their 9/11 injuries since 9/11, more than were killed on 9/11 and more than 110 FDNY firefighters have also died with in the years since, with more deaths expected among all the responders and survivors.
Here are videos that let injured 9/11 responders and survivors and those that care for them explain the problem.