Islandia, NY – Just hours after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Act, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the Senate’s chief sponsor of the bill, secured Senate Leadership support to fast track the legislation, bypassing the lengthy Committee process and providing opportunity for a full Senate vote when the Senate reconvenes next month.
“This should not be a partisan issue. We have an undeniable, moral obligation to pass this legislation and provide care to the thousands of heroes and survivors who are suffering, dying, and waiting for us to deliver the care they need,” Senator Gillibrand said. “It’s time to seize every opportunity, pass this legislation, and keep our promise to the heroes of this country who came to our rescue on 9-11.”
On Wednesday, September 29, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives – with the bipartisan support of 17 Republican Representatives – voted to pass the James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Act. The bill was immediately sent to the U.S. Senate, where, at Senator Gillibrand’s request, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked Senate Rule 14 Process, which will fast track the bill to floor consideration, bypassing the much longer and uncertain committee consideration process that the vast majority of bills undergo.
Through the fast track process, the legislation will be added to the Senate’s vote schedule shortly after the next legislative session resumes, on November 15. Negotiations on the legislation will begin immediately, making it available for a floor vote at the start of the next Senate work period. While this process does not guarantee passage, it does remove obstacles including the committee process, which could stall the bill for months or kill it before it is brought to the floor.
In order for the James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Act to gain passage in the U.S. Senate, the legislation will have to receive at least 60 votes. Senator Gillibrand is working to secure the bipartisan support that will be needed to avoid a filibuster.
Thousands were lost on the morning of September 11, 2001, but today, thousands more – including first responders, area residents, workers, students, and others – are sick and getting sicker from exposure to toxins released from the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers.
Nearly 16,000 responders and 2,700 community members are currently sick and receiving treatment. Over 40,000 responders are in medical monitoring and 71,000 individuals are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry. While the majority of these people live in the New York/New Jersey area, at least 10,000 of those who are sick or being monitored for signs of illness today reside in areas throughout the country. In fact, citizens in all but four Congressional districts across the country could be affected by toxins from the 9-11 attacks.
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 face the high price of health care without a federally-funded national program to help cover the costs.
The 9-11 Health and Compensation Act would:
Establish the World Trade Center Health Program. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will provide medical monitoring and treatment for WTC-related conditions for WTC responders and community members;
Provide Monitoring and Treatment for WTC Responders and NY Community Members. The Clinical Centers of Excellence will monitor and deliver treatment for responders and eligible members of the New York area, which will be coordinated by the Coordinated Centers of Excellence – FDNY, a consortium that includes Mt. Sinai, Queens College, Bellevue, SUNY Stony Brook, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
Provide Monitoring and Treatment for WTC Responders in the NY Area. The legislation will expand access to an additional 15,000 participants in the responder medical monitoring and treatment program – currently capped at about 40,000 – to make sure no one feeling the health effects of 9-11 is left behind from getting the care they deserve. The legislation would ensure 55,000 WTC responders get the care they need.
Provide Monitoring and Treatment for NY Community Members. The bill establishes a community program to provide initial health screenings, treatment, and monitoring to eligible community members, including geographic and exposure criteria to define who may be eligible for the program, such as those who lived, worked, or were present in lower Manhattan, South of Houston Street or in Brooklyn within a 1.5 mile radius of the WTC site for certain defined time periods. The bill will expand access for an additional 15,000 participants in the community program for residents and non-responders – currently capped at about 2,700 – for a total of around 17,700. $20 million will be available per year to cover the costs of WTC-related health claims that may arise in individuals who fall outside the more limited definition of the population eligible for the community program.
Provide Monitoring and Treatment for Communities Beyond NY. Heroes came from across the country to help in the aftermath of 9-11. This legislation makes sure responders nationwide have access to monitoring and treatment benefits where they live. These eligible individuals are included in the caps on the number of participants in the responder and community programs.
Establish Cost Share for the City of New York. The City of New York would be required to contribute a 10 percent matching cost share of the community health program, but will not exceed $500 million over 10 years.
Research New Conditions. New research is critical for reaching breakthroughs in diagnosing and treating WTC-related illnesses. The legislation will direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Program Steering Committee, to conduct or support new research into new WTC-related conditions.
Extend Support for NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. NIOSH would extend and expand support for the World Trade Center Health Registry and provide grants for the mental health needs of individuals not otherwise eligible for services under this bill.
Reopen the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). The fund would be reopened until December 22, 2031 to provide compensation for economic damages and loss for individuals who did not file before or became ill after the original December 22, 2003 deadline. Because the bill links the VCF to the limitation on liability, this long date allows protection for victims with latent claims while extending limitation on liability period. The bill requires the Special Master to update regulations consistent with revisions to VCF under this Act.
Provide Liability Protections for the WTC Contractors and the City of New York. Finally, the 9-11 Health and Compensation Act will limit the liability of defendants for claims previously resolved, currently pending or filed through December 22, 2031. It limits liability to the sum of the amounts of: 1) the WTC Captive Insurance Co.; 2) Insurance identified in the WTC Captive Insurance Co.; 3) the City’s liability limit of $350 million; 4) the Port Authority’s insurance; and 5) the contractors’ insurance. There is no limitation on liability for intentional torts or other acts for which punitive damages are awarded. With respect to settlements or judgments obtained for claims under this section, the section establishes a priority of claims payments from which plaintiffs may satisfy those judgments or settlements. The priority requires exhaustion of the Captive and its insurance, then exhaustion of City’s $350 million, followed by exhaustion of Port Authority’s insurance, and finally by the contractors’ insurance.