9/11 Advocates Respond to Virginia Congressman’s Shameful Attempt to Shortchange 9/11 Heroes
New York, NY – Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act released the following statement in response to legislation, H.R. 3858, introduced yesterday by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) to fund the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund. The legislation adopts a dramatically lower funding level than is needed to care for 9/11 first responders who are disabled as a result of their service to the nation. A separate bill, proposed as a “discussion draft,” was made public yesterday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee which would extend the World Trade Center Health Program for only 5 more years and also underfund the medical care that the responders and survivors need.
“While we appreciate Congressman Goodlatte’s attempt to creatively pay for part of what is needed, the Congressman’s short-term bill comes at a time when a bipartisan majority of House Members and Senators has registered support for permanent healthcare and compensation funding. Let’s hope that this is not an attempt to shortchange 9/11 first responders at the moment majorities in the Congress support a clearly better approach of permanent funding.
“Make no mistake, the unfortunate result of this legislation would be accepting a huge cut to aid for sick and dying heroes that is shameful, even by Washington standards. Perhaps even more amazing, Congressman Goodlatte has long refused to hold a hearing on the issue – yet his bill somehow divines exactly how much aid disabled 9/11 responders need to care for themselves and their families.
“Here’s our message to Congressman Goodlatte: the bill to provide real help for the heroes of 9/11 is gaining momentum every day. We have the support of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and more than 240 of your colleagues in the House. Just today, Senator Dan Sullivan (R) of Alaska added his name to the legislation. We’re moving forward to guarantee the help that is needed for injured and ill 9/11 responders and survivors, and you’re not going to stop us from crossing the finish line,” said Richard Alles, FDNY Deputy Chief and Board Member of Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act.
To recap yesterday’s events:
While all attention was focused in Washington on the House electing a new Speaker and just after the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act which would fully fund and make permanent the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, received the support of majorities in both Houses of Congress, the House Judiciary Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee took actions that would blunt the effort.
Judiciary Committee Bill, HR 3858
The Judiciary Committee after remaining silent and on the sidelines for months, refusing to even have a Hearing on the issue, introduced legislation H.R. 3858, sponsored by Judiciary committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, Congressman Steve Chabot of Ohio, and Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas that would extend the VCF for 5 years.
The bill came just as support for permanent help for the thousands that are expected to face cancers in the coming decade had gained the support of clear a clear majority in Congress
Considering similar health and compensation programs for coal miners and nuclear workers are permanent and fully funded this five year limitation makes no sense, given that we expect increasing cases of cancers in the coming years.
More troubling is that their legislation, “the September 11th VCF Reauthorization and U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Compensation Act” would do nothing about the thousands of injured 9/11 responders, survivors and their families currently in the VCF with determinations who have been waiting for years and are facing cuts of up to 60 % in their awards.
The Energy and Commerce Committee Discussion Draft
In conjunction with the Judiciary Committees legislation, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, released for public review a “Discussion Draft”. Unlike the Judiciary Committee the Energy and Commerce Committee had had an early, full and in-depth hearing on the issue of the World Trade Center Health Program the health problems faced by 9/11 responders and survivors and also unlike the Judiciary Committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee did not introduce legislation, they share a draft of bill for public comment.
That being said, the draft has serious issues that make it problematic. It underfunds the needs of the Health program, since it is only a five year extension it would require 9/11 responders to again go to Washington to plea for help. These are responders who are sicker with each passing year. Most disappointing is how the committee would propose “paying for” the program with a proposal that has been rejected repeatedly in the past and would be viewed as a political poison pill.
Statistics on the 9/11 health crisis:
85 NYPD officers have reportedly passed away from 9/11-related illnesses, more than died on 9/11 itself. Over 110 firefighters have reportedly died of 9/11 illnesses, as well.
4,166 9/11 responders and survivors have been diagnosed with cancers caused by 9/11 – and doctors say this number will grow significantly in years to come.
12,150 Injured and ill 9/11 responders and survivors have been deemed eligible for compensation – but their aid would likely be cut in half unless Congress acts.
33,000 Americans are sick or injured because of the attacks – most have more than one injury or illness.
72,000 Americans will lose access to 9/11 medical monitoring or treatment if Congress allows the Zadroga Act to expire.