Washington, DC – 9-11 first responders, survivors, and their families joined with Jon Stewart, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Peter King (R-NY) today to introduce the bipartisan Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act and call for its swift passage.
The bipartisan legislation introduced today would ensure that all 9-11 first responders and survivors who have been injured by the toxins at Ground Zero and have certified 9-11 illnesses would receive their full compensation through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) now and into the future as more become ill with 9-11 cancers. The bill would also close the funding gap recently announced by the VCF Special Master.
“Just over a week ago, 9-11 heroes all over the country learned the horrible news that the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund will need to make severe cuts. Cancer rates in the 9-11 first responder community are rising faster than ever before, and that means our 9-11 heroes are going to need the VCF more urgently than ever before. Congress must not sit idly by ignoring this suffering and passing it off as someone else’s problem while drastic cuts are made to the VCF program,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “We must pass this bipartisan bill to make the VCF permanent with full funding so that when our 9-11 heroes get that terrifying call from the doctor, they’ll at least have the peace of mind that the VCF will be there for them and their families. We must honor our 9-11 heroes, and that means giving them the support they earned and deserve and urgently need.”
“I will never forget the images of the brave men and women running into danger to save lives during the 9-11 terrorist attacks,” said U.S. Senator Cory Gardner. “Unfortunately, thousands of first responders and survivors, including many who reside in my home state of Colorado, suffer from illnesses and diseases from toxins at Ground Zero. I’m proud to join in introducing this bipartisan legislation to close funding gaps in the Victim Compensation Fund to make sure these heroes and their families receive the care they need and deserve.”
“We fought for and passed the 9-11 Victims Compensation Fund to provide peace of mind to those sickened after the horrific attack,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “For too many, ailments and disease from exposure to that toxic airborne brew have taken years to show up and – as the need for the fund grows – the chance it may not have adequate resources to take care of our heroes is just unacceptable. There is no time to waste in passing the bill to fully fund –and make permanent–the VCF so that any 9-11first responder who might get sick will get the care they earned.”
“We need to get to work to make sure the Victim Compensation Fund is there for all those who were sick and injured and the families of those killed because of the toxins at Ground Zero. And that starts with today’s introduction of the Never Forget the Heroes Act,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “We promised sick and injured 9-11 first responders and survivors that we would fully compensate them for the losses they have suffered. We need to live up to that promise. They shouldn’t have to come begging for us to do our jobs. They’ve done that too many times before. Let’s make this time different and quickly pass this bill.”
“We designed the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) to ensure that the tens of thousands of responders and survivors battling 9-11-related illnesses, and those who may not yet know they are sick, have the resources they need,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “It is imperative that we pass this bill as quickly as possible to make the VCF permanent and ensure the firefighters, police officers, federal and local law enforcement officers, medical workers, construction workers, and other heroes who selflessly rushed to Ground Zero to help have access to the care they deserve.”
“Nationwide, brave 9-11 responders and survivors put their lives on the line at Ground Zero. Because of their exposure to toxins they continue to fight serious illnesses. We have come too far to fail now,” said Congressman King. “In order to ensure the continuation of the Victims Compensation Fund we must enlist political support from all regions and parties.”
“We have a grand opportunity to finally do the right thing and allow those who always answered the call for us to know that we have their backs,” said Jon Stewart.
“Congress has a chance to take our worst day, weeks, months and 18 years and come together make this their finest hour by supporting this bipartisan piece of legislation to ensure yesterday’s heroes and those effected by the aftermath of that horrific Tuesday morning are taken care of,” said John Feal, 9-11 Health Advocate.
“We stood together as a nation on that horrific day, and shortly after we declared as a country that we would never forget,” said Mario Cilento, President, NYS AFL-CIO. “This critically important program was promised to these brave men and women fighting 9-11 related cancers and other life-threatening illnesses. It’s Congress’s job to fix this tragic and unacceptable crisis by fully funding and making permanent the Victim Compensation Fund to ensure responders, survivors and their families get the support they so rightly deserve. I thank Senators Schumer, Gillibrand and Gardner, Representatives Maloney, Nadler, and King, as well as the entire New York Delegation for their tireless effort.”
“18 years ago our nation was attacked on our home soil. The destruction was devastating, the human toll was unimaginable. That toll continues to climb today and will do so for sometime to come,” said Jake Lemonda, President, Uniformed Fire Officers Association Local 854 IAFF AFL CIO. “18 years ago our elected officials promised that our country would always take care of those who responded from all corners and subsequently would become ill from their duties. If we cannot trust those we elect to protect us, I ask, who then can we trust to do the right thing for those who did the right thing to raise our nation off of our knees when we were knocked to the ground on Sept. 11.”
“There are thousands of brave firefighters in the Fire Department of New York who have suffered tremendously because of their heroism on the fateful day of 9-11. Cancer and other chronic, life threatening illness are a reality for not only the firefighters and emergency response personnel, but also their families and friends,” said Gerard Fitzgerald, President, Uniformed Firefighters Association. “Though money doesn’t replace the victims’ lives cut short or adversely impacted by 9-11, it does help ease the tremendous burden of financial distress caused by the loss of life or the chronic injuries sustained by first responders. It would be unconscionable for Congress to allow this to expire and immoral to leave families without the very little compensation their loved ones earned on one of the most tragic days in American history. September 11th wasn’t only an attack on New York, it was an attack on America – and New York’s first responders heroically answered. Still today, the actions of terrorists continue to attack New York’s first responders, and America and United States Congress needs to answer.”
“There is no expiration date on our nation’s obligation to care for the heroes of 9-11 and their families,” said NYC PBA President Patrick J. Lynch. “The greatest sacrifice still lies ahead for too many of our police officers and other first responders, in the form of new cancers and other diseases that are still emerging all these years later. It is unconscionable that families struggling with loss or serious illness will be turned away or forced to accept less than they deserve. Congress must honor its obligation by permanently reauthorizing and fully funding the 9-11 Victim Compensation Fund.”
“While the horrifying attacks on September 11th, 2001 may seem a distant memory, the immense loss and pain from that day will always endure in the hearts of New Yorkers and their families,” said Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “We will never forget the immeasurable sacrifice of the brave men and women of the Building Trades, NYPD, FDNY and others heroes who lost their lives that day, and we call on Congress to fulfill its duty to extend and fully fund the Zadroga Act, so that these families can heal and be granted peace and security they so deserve.”
“As children exposed to the toxic dust of the World Trade Center clean-up, our health was put at risk without our input or consent. Now, with rates of serious WTC-illness rising in our age group, we are facing increasingly serious consequences from that exposure,” said Lila Nordstrom, survivor advocate. “Unfortunately, cancer does not respect arbitrary funding deadlines. As our WTC-related illnesses continue to emerge, we deserve continued access to the Victim Compensation Fund.”
On February 15, 2019, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund announced that due to a funding shortfall, injured and ill 9-11 responders and survivors will receive cuts to the awards that they were expecting of 50% for pending claims and 70% for future claims.
In the years since 9-11/2001, thousands of 9-11 responders and survivors have become ill and many have lost their lives from exposure to a toxic cocktail of burning chemicals, pulverized drywall and powdered cement that was present at Ground Zero. After years of urging Congress to act, in 2010 and again in 2015, legislation was passed to provide medical monitoring and treatment through the World Trade Center Health Program and compensation through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for thousands made sick by the toxins at Ground Zero as well at the Pentagon and the Shanksville, PA crash site. Now, after waiting years for compensation that they need and deserve, thousands are facing dramatically reduced awards and unless Congress acts, the VCF will actually be closing next year just as thousands more 9-11 responders and survivors are expected to be diagnosed with 9-11 cancers.
This legislation is designed to ensure that the VCF is fully funded and will remain open for those that will become ill in the future.