New York, NY – On the heels of a key House panel’s passage last month of the James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Act, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) stood at Ground Zero today with Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Councilwoman Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan), 9-11 first responders, workers, families who lost loved ones on 9-11 and Lower Manhattan residents to announce that on Tuesday, June 29th, the U.S. Senate will hold its first-ever hearing on the James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Act, a bill introduced by Senator Gillibrand last year. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, agreed to hold the congressional hearing at Senator Gillibrand’s request, marking the first step towards providing permanent monitoring and treatment for thousands of first responders, area residents, workers, students and others exposed to the dust cloud – many of whom are sick and getting sicker from exposure to toxins released at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks.
The James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Act is co-sponsored by Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Roland Burris (D-IL), Robert Casey (D-PA), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Mark Begich (D-AK).
“We have an undeniable moral obligation to help the heroes of 9-11 and all others exposed. Failure to do so may have long-lasting implications on future response efforts,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I want to thank Chairman Harkin for agreeing to hold a hearing on the health and well–being of thousands of first responders and innocent men, women, and children in New York who suffered long lasting harm from September 11th. I commend my predecessor, Secretary Clinton, as well as my colleagues in both the Senate and the House, who invested tremendous effort over several years to get us to this point. Today we are taking a major step toward fulfilling our obligation, but we have a lot of work left to do.”
“I commend Senator Gillibrand for her leadership in moving the Zadroga Act forward in the Senate and securing a hearing on the bill,” said Representative Maloney. “This is a crucial step forward for the legislation. I look forward to working with Senator Gillibrand, Senator Schumer, and all our colleagues in the New York delegation as we strive to pass the Zadroga Act by the ninth anniversary of the attacks. The heroes, heroines, and survivors of 9-11 need and deserve comprehensive, guaranteed health care and access to compensation. It is truly the least our great nation can do.”
“The upcoming Senate hearing on the 9-11 Health and Compensation Act is a critical step in the long journey to achieve justice for the responders and survivors of 9-11,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). “The federal government is long overdue in providing health care and compensation to the many heroes, workers, community members and others who have become sick because of their exposure to toxic Ground Zero dust. We made great strides recently, when our parallel House bill was favorably voted out of the House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce committees, and the Senate’s momentum on this legislation is welcome news. I want to thank Senator Gillibrand for taking the lead on this in Senate, and Senator Harkin for bringing this important issue before his committee.”
“We need comprehensive health care for our first responders now; they have been waiting nine years too long,” said Representative Michael E. McMahon (D-Staten Island and Brooklyn), who is one of the four members who introduced the Zadroga legislation in the House. “With the recent advancements of the legislation in the House, we are so close to having this important bill become law. I applaud Senator Gillibrand for leading the charge in the Senate and will continue to work with her until all of our 9-11 heroes receive the health care and compensation they deserve.”
“September 11 was a tragedy not just for New York, but the entire nation,” said Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY-17), the senior New York member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and co-sponsor of the legislation. “However, despite the terrible attacks and the loss of life, what followed provided examples of bravery and national pride which were inspiring. Within minutes of the attack, New York’s first responders mobilized to save those trapped in the World Trade Center, putting their lives in unspeakable danger, with sadly, far too many of them giving their own lives. Within days, over 40,000 responders from around the country came to Ground Zero to help. It is long overdue for Congress to come to aid of first responders, their families, and the people from the area of the attack whose health has badly deteriorated over the years. Especially after they were told by their government, a week after the attacks, that it was safe to live and work at Ground Zero and surrounding area. Clearly, it was not safe, and the number of victims of the 9-11 attacks continues to rise. I look forward to seeing the Senate move forward with their legislation, as the House version, which I helped shepherd through the Energy and Commerce Committee, waits for a full House vote.”
“This bill will ensure that 9-11 rescue and recovery workers who risked their lives for our community will receive the proper long-term medical care and support they deserve,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn). “I commend Senator Gillibrand and Representatives Nadler and Maloney for working so hard to push this bill through Congress.”
“The Zadroga bill is a crucial piece of legislation for our 9-11 heroes and victims,” said Councilwoman Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan). “Not only does it help provide healthcare for first responders and those who worked at Ground Zero on or after 9-11, but it also provides for community residents who have suffered from the aftermath of the attacks. As a lower Manhattan resident living just blocks from the World Trade Center site and a member of the 9-11 health registry, I know firsthand how important this bill is. I commend Senator Gillibrand for holding this hearing. I also want to thank our Congressmembers Nadler and Maloney, for championing this bill in the House. I know that we can count on our delegation to get this done for New Yorkers and all first responders.”
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 incur 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 20 percent matching cost share of the community health program, but will not exceed $250 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.