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Congress Approves 9/11 Health Bill

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Congress has passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, paving the way for health care and compensation for New Yorkers who have been sickened by the dust from World Trade Center attacks.

The bill has been in the works for years, pushed by New York politicians, fire fighters and police officers, but had stalled in the Senate earlier this month. After its sponsors agreed to scale down the cost of the bill considerably, from the $7.4 billion price tag approved by the House of Representatives in September, to $4.2 billion, it passed quickly.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate paused during its floor debate on the START nuclear arms treaty to take a voice vote on the Zadroga bill. The measure passed unanimously.

“All those in favor say aye. All those opposed no,” said Vice President Joseph Biden, in his capacity as president of the Senate. “The ayes have it, appear to have it -- and the ayes do have it, the bill is passed.” The House approved the bill later on Wednesday.

"This is the day we have all been waiting for," said New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. "Our Christmas miracle has arrived!"

The bill will continue to provide health care and monitoring for tens of thousands of first-responders, construction workers and Lower Manhattan residents who were exposed to World Trade Center dust in the weeks following the attacks.

But instead of continuing that monitoring effort for 10 years, the scaled-back bill provides only enough funding to last for five years. That’s still an advantage over the present system, which mandates federal funding for the effort be renewed on a year-by-year basis.

Jill Fenwick, from Staten Island, was caught in a dust plume caused by the collapse of the towers on 9/11, and continued to work downtown afterwards. She said she struggles with a range of chronic illnesses. "I'm happy that the bill passed because it gives us a reprieve, I guess for five years. I'm not happy that many of the people who may have the same diseases as I do are already dead," she said. "It gives one pause."

The bill also sets up a Victims Compensation Fund that will give monetary awards for to emergency workers and others who fall ill and lose wages as a result of exposure to the dust and to their families in case of death. The fund will be similar to one set up for people who were killed by the actual attacks.  

In the original House version of the bill, the Victims Compensation Fund was to remain open until 2031, but now it will last only five years and close permanently in 2016.

“We did not get everything that we wanted, but always remember legislation is the art of compromise,” Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, said after the vote. “This is $4.3 billion better than nothing."

Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York, said the bill is a big victory. "A five-year extension was not what we were looking for but it is certainly a huge step in the right direction, and what needed to get done now," he said.

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Comments [5]

robert schaff

Where was your resperator? You low life fagots were right there to collect
every handout you could get your hands on. What about the veterans of the
Vietnam War that were exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis. There was no compensation. I was always in contact with JP4 while I was a flight line mechanic. I had Leukemia for 20 years now and I receive no compensation

Oct. 13 2012 06:39 PM
gregg lopez from sharthesville pa

am very happy they now have the fund i just hope now maybe it will let me get coverd for the rest of whats wrong with me
the frist bill did not coverd i won all my cases workmans comp and ssd all so they only paid me for one of my lungs my doctor said bouth my lungs were burned the frist 3 days i was there my time spent was 11 months iwas there i have lost every thing my job and heatlh care and pen sion and i was raped by workmans comp they put me and my family though hell even with all my proof
iwas there all my badges and all my pay stubs what they did to me and the rest of the workers was not right but i would do it again if i had to thoses familys became my family they send my cards for xmas and marched for us and i will never for get what it was like down there for mounths god bless all 9 11 familys for coming to my aid witch they should of never had to do they have been though enough i had to leave new york because i cant aford to live there on workmans com
and my ssd now my wife is so sick from me and my health and ptsd now i live in pa

Jan. 15 2011 04:42 PM
Sylvan De Lafeuille from CA

This is a bill that makes sense. When I think about the 9/11 victims, tears still come to my eyes. The heroes who sacrificed their lives to save the lives of others deserve our consideration, pride and admiration. From the bottom of my heart, I thank both republicans and Democrats who voted for the passage of this bill. President Obama: I highly praise you for signing this bill. Keep up the good work!

Jan. 03 2011 11:44 AM
daleleblanc from ca

I dont feel like i should be forced to have health insurance, I think everyone would like to have health insurance if they could afford it. If you need affordable health insurance search online "Wise Health Insurance" you dont want to be with out insurance any time.

Dec. 22 2010 11:47 PM
Tired 1st Responder from NY

I was a volunteer 1st responder. I have many serious lung and other repiratory and medical issues. I have been in the WTC treatment and monitoring program since its inception. I have paid thousands in Medical expenses and lost hundreds of hours of work. If you are a Union employee you get compensated for lost time via your union contract. But I am self employed and when I am in the Doctors office or hospital I am unemployed. Many of these people are already getting health benefits thru their unions who are trying to push it off on workmens comp who is trying to push it back to the unions. i.e. no one wants the financial burden. What they should have done was make them pay for their already insured and then the funds from this can go to those who really need it, the ones with no medical insurance. Not ones who are covered by entities who don't want to pay. If you already get disability payments, got NYC lawsuit payment and some who already got the 9/11 VCF payments shouldn't be allowed to get even more money. What about those who haven't gotten a dime to reimburse them for all their expenses and suffering? Like Me.................

Dec. 22 2010 11:36 PM

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