Washington, DC – With more than 50,000 New Yorkers, hailing from 58 of New York’s 62 counties, enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today restated her call for passage of the James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Act, which would ensure proper monitoring and treatment for the innocent men, women and children who face potential life-threatening health effects due to the toxins released at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. Senator Gillibrand introduced the first comprehensive Senate 9-11 health legislation in June 2009, and has since worked tirelessly to hold a hearing on the bill in June 2010 and secure the bipartisan support needed to pass the bill before the end of this year.
“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. “The men and women who lived through 9-11 and came to our rescue on that day were not Democrats or Republicans or Independents – they were Americans. Now we have a duty to provide them the health care and compensation they and their family need. The James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Act fulfills our moral obligation to the brave men and women who did not think twice before risking their lives in service to our country. They were bound by duty and a love of our nation and a love of their fellow Americans. They joined hand in hand with heroes like them from every corner of America to come to our rescue and help us turn toward a path to recovery.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Act with the bipartisan support of 17 Republican Representatives in September. 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 fast tracked the bill for floor consideration, bypassing the much longer and uncertain committee consideration process that the vast majority of bills undergo.
While this process does not guarantee consideration or passage, it does remove obstacles, including a lengthy committee process that can stall the bill for months, or kill it before it is brought to the floor.
This week, Senator Gillibrand unveiled a new exhibition of police badges belonging to members of the New York City Police Department who assisted in rescue efforts at Ground Zero and later died from 9-11-related illnesses. The 29 badges are intended to attract Republican support for the bill. In partnership with the NYPD, Senator Gillibrand brought the shields to Washington, DC to highlight the human toll of 9-11-related illnesses and the importance of passing the legislation during the lame duck session.
The badges, which come from the New York City Police Museum, will be housed in the Russell Senate Office Building next to the U.S. Capitol. This is the first time that such an exhibition has traveled outside of New York City.
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.
13,956 WTC responders are sick and receiving treatment just this year. 53,352 responders are enrolled in medical monitoring. 71,437 individuals are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry, indicating that they were exposed to the toxins. While the majority live in the New York/New Jersey area, at least 10,497 responders who came from around the country were identified as exposed, of which at least 4,185 are being monitored or are receiving treatment.
More than 50,000 New Yorkers from across our state are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry as a result of exposure to toxins at Ground Zero.
- In New York City, nearly 39,000 residents are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry.
- In Western New York, nearly 100 residents are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry.
- In the Rochester/Finger Lakes Region, nearly 100 residents are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry.
- In Central New York, nearly 100 residents are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry.
- In the Southern Tier, nearly 100 residents are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry.
- In the Capital Region, nearly 300 residents are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry.
- In the North Country, 50 residents are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry.
- In the Hudson Valley, more than 4,250 residents are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry.
- On Long Island, more than 7,300 residents are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry.
Numerous studies have documented the health effects of the World Trade Center (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 James Zadroga 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 build on the existing monitoring and treatment programs by delivering expert medical treatment for WTC-related illnesses and expand access to an additional 25,000 participants in the program. The legislation would cap enrollment in the program at 80,000 WTC responders.
Ensure Transparency, Accountability in WTC Registry
Currently, the WTC program is funded through the yearly appropriations process, making it vulnerable to partisan politics and gridlock in Congress. This legislation ensures the funding is there and establishes even stronger transparency and accountability for the program. It would terminate the six billing systems created in the chaotic aftermath of September 11 and establish a third party administrator, who will set reasonable rates, track expenditures and enforce eligibility requirements.
The fund would only be the payer of last resort and cover whatever private insurance and workman’s comp doesn’t cover. The fund also pays for anyone who does not have access to health insurance.
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 25,000 participants in the community program for residents and non-responders for a total of around 29,000. $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.
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 health program, up to $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 contractor liability, this long date allows protection for victims with latent claims while extending limitation on liability. The bill requires a 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 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.