Washington, DC – Following the recent announcement that the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) could run out of funding before its expiration date in 2020, and with cancer rates among 9-11 first responders starting to increase 17 years after the 9-11 attacks, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and U.S. Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), and Peter T. King (R-NY-2) today announced bipartisan legislation to permanently reauthorize and fund the VCF. The bipartisan legislation would ensure that 9-11 first responders who become sick with certified 9-11 illnesses in the future would be covered by the VCF program.
“Thousands of firefighters, police officers, federal and local law enforcement officers, medical workers, construction workers, and other heroes risked their lives for us after we were attacked on 9-11. They didn’t back down when we needed them, and now, as cancer rates in the 9-11 first responder community are higher than ever and the 9-11 death toll continues to rise 17 years after the attacks, Congress needs to stand up for them,” said Senator Gillibrand (D-NY). “We simply cannot turn our backs on our 9-11 heroes and let the Victim Compensation Fund expire. I urge my colleagues to do the right thing, protect our heroes and their families, and pass this bipartisan bill to permanently reauthorize the VCF now. Anything less would send a cruel message to our heroes and their families that Congress is shrugging their shoulders at their suffering. We can and must pass this vitally important bipartisan bill now.”
“I’ll never forget the images and video of brave women and men running into danger to help save thousands of people,” said Senator Gardner (R-CO). “These heroes now live across the country, including in Colorado, and have sacrificed so much. After all they have done for us, our nation cannot and will not turn its back on them. This bipartisan group will work relentlessly to advance our legislation to provide them the care they 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 (D-NY). “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. Today’s news showcases the bipartisan support that should propel this bill to prompt passage. There is no time to waste when people are waiting in line for the care they deserve.”
“We need to permanently authorize and fully fund the VCF as soon as possible and make sure the VCF has the additional funding it needs to cover its anticipated shortfall. When we vowed to never forget after the 9-11 terrorist attacks – it also meant that we would never leave our heroes without the support they need,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY). “As scientists and doctors predicted, and as we feared, cancer rates are continuing to rise in first responder and survivor communities. Some of these heroes have been battling these diseases for years and others are being newly diagnosed as we speak. For their sake, and the diagnoses still to come, we cannot allow the fund to run out of money – it would be devastating to those who rely on it each and every day. As each day passes without permanent reauthorization and full funding, anxiety and suffering grow – and that is unacceptable. Our 9-11 heroes answered the call when we were attacked, and now Congress needs to answer the call and stand up for them.”
“For tens of thousands of responders and survivors living with and dying from 9-11-related illnesses, and the thousands more who may not yet know they are sick, the tragedy of 9-11 continues,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). “We designed the Victims Compensation Fund (VCF) to ensure that families battling these illnesses have the resources they need. Already the VCF is running out of money, and those who become sick in the future may not have the security we promised every responder and survivor of that tragic day. It is imperative that we make the VCF permanent, just as the World Trade Center Health Program was made permanent in 2015, and ensure that no one suffering from 9-11-related illnesses is left unable to provide for their family.”
“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 and in order to ensure that our 9-11 heroes receive the very best medical care and treatment we must enlist political support from all regions and parties,” said Congressman Peter T. King (R-NY).
The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 killed 2,997 and injured thousands in New York City, Shanksville, PA and the Pentagon. In the years since, tens of thousands more men and women, including first responders, relief workers, and local residents, have lost their lives or gotten sick after they were exposed to a toxic cocktail of burning chemicals, pulverized drywall and powdered cement. According to scientists, many cancers can lie dormant for more than 20 years before turning deadly. This year, the number of cancer certifications by the World Trade Center Health Program reached over 10,000 cases. As we reach the 20 year milestone and these latent diseases continue to manifest, new claims will continue to rise as we reach the expiration of the current Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) in 2020. Already, the VCF has approved over 19,204 claims.
This bipartisan legislation, S. 3591, led in the Senate by Senators Gillibrand, Gardner, and Schumer, has 15 additional cosponsors: Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Robert Casey (D-PA), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Edward Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). In the House, this bipartisan legislation, H.R. 7062, is led by Representatives Maloney, Nadler, and King, and has 36 additional cosponsors, including: Thomas Suozzi (D-NY-03), Ted Poe (R-TX-02), Kathleen Rice (D-NY-04), Chris Smith (R-NJ-04), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-05), Leonard Lance (R-NJ-07), Grace Meng (D-NY-06), Tom MacArthur (R-NJ-03), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY-07), Daniel Donovan (R-NY-11), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08), Claudia Tenney (R-NY-22), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13), Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10), Joseph Crowley (D-NY-14), José Serrano (D-NY-15), Eliot Engel (D-NY-16), Nita Lowey (D-NY-17), Paul Tonko (D-NY-20), Brian Higgins (D-NY-26), Donald Norcross (D-NJ-01), Frank Pallone (D-NJ-06), Albio Sires (D-NJ-08), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-09), Greg Meeks (D-NY-5), Yvette Clarke (D-NY-9), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12), David Price (D-NC-04), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT-05), Brendan Boyle (D-PA-13), Kristen Sinema (D-AZ-09), Grace Napolitano (D-CA-32), David Cicilline (D-RI-01), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-08), Karen Bass (D-CA-37), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL-24).