Washington D.C. – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today announced the passage of an amendment to the Senate budget resolution that will facilitate future legislation to renew and extend the James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Act, which will expire later this Congress. The program was originally passed via unanimous consent in December 2010.
The Gillibrand-Ayotte amendment would create a “deficit-neutral reserve fund” that would allow Congress to consider future legislation that would continue to provide medical treatment and compensation for first responders, survivors, and their families of the September 11th terrorism attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Shanksville crash site as long as that legislation does not increase the federal deficit.
“This is an important first bipartisan step towards securing the treatment and compensation for those who became injured or ill from the September 11th attacks,” said Senator Gillibrand. “While we have many more steps to go, this gives me renewed optimism Congress will do what’s right for our 9-11 first responders, survivors and our nation.”
“On behalf of thousands of sick New York City Firefighters and more than 100 now deceased, who answered the call on 9-11 and spend weeks and months at the World Trade Center site, we want to thank Senator Ayotte for joining Senator Gillibrand in moving this first step in the process of renewing the 9-11 Health and Compensation Act,” said Steve Cassidy President of the Uniform Firefighters Association Local 94 I.A.F.F. AFL CIO.
The James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Act passed by Congress in 2010 helped ensure proper monitoring and treatment for thousands of men, women and children that face potential life-threatening health effects due to the toxins released at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks.
Currently, over 30,000 responders and survivors across the nation have at least one injury while many have multiple 9-11 injuries and are receiving critical treatment and medical care through the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program. Over 60,000 9-11 responders are receiving medical monitoring. The program treats responders and survivors for many chronic diseases and respiratory illnesses, including asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
The WTC Health Program continues to be a critical lifeline for many, particularly when the number of 9-11-related cancer cases among rescue workers and responders has increased over the past decade and continues to grow. So far, more than 3,600 responders and survivors have been diagnosed with 9-11-related cancers, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2012, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has added several types of cancers to the list of 9-11-related illnesses covered by the WTC Health Program. Studies show that 9-11 workers have gotten certain cancers – including thyroid, leukemia, and multiple myeloma – at a significantly higher rate than the general population.
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which was reopened under the Zadroga 9-11 Health Bill, provides compensation for economic losses to 9-11 responders and survivors and their families for physical injuries as a result of involvement in Ground Zero, including breathing in toxins. Since 2013, the VCF has made over 3,000 compensation determinations and has so far deemed over 9,600 injured 9-11 individuals eligible for compensation.
Responders came from all over the country to aid in the response to the attacks. And some area residents, workers and survivors have since moved and are currently receiving care in cities and states across the country. Participants enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program for treatment currently reside in all 50 states and in 429 of the 435 Congressional districts in the country.
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 would be forced to pay the high price of health care without this federally-funded national program.
The current WTC Health Program and the reopened September 11th Victim Compensation Fund expire during the 114th Congress.