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Congress Extends Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act

Dec 21, 2015

On December 18, Congress voted to extend lifetime health benefits to those afflicted with illness and injuries stemming from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The legislation extended the benefits for 75 years, the New York Daily News reports. "It's a very good day," said Josep h Zadroga, father of detective James Zadroga, who died in January 2006 from illness caused by toxic exposures at ground zero after the World Trade Center towers fell.

The programs were in danger of disappearing after Congress failed to meet a September deadline to reauthorize the funding, according to the Daily News. In addition to extending the health care program for first responders and others suffering lasting health effects from 9/11 injuries and toxic exposures, the Victims Compensation Fund is authorized for another five years to provide benefits to first responders too sick to work and to their families.

Rep. Caroline Maloney, one of the leaders in the bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Zadroga Act said, "After 15 years, the heroes and survivors of 9/11 will know that their health care is permanent and their compensation is full." New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called it a "long overdue victory for the 72,000 brave men and women around the country who rely on these programs."

More than 200 New York City police officers and firefighters have died from 9/11-related illnesses and roughly 33,000 responders and survivors battling an assortment of ailments. Many of them suffer from chronic ailments like asthma, pulmonary disease and gastric reflux, and medical researchers have identified more than 50 types of cancer linked to toxins from the twin towers.

James Zadroga, for whom the act is named, spent close to 500 hours working in the ruins of the World Trade Center, inhaling a lethal mix of asbestos, pulverized cement, and toxic chemicals. Joseph Zadroga said when his son became ill "nobody knew what was going on . . . Now we can move forward."

Reauthorization of the Zadroga Act took years, the Daily News reports. First responders made hundreds of trips to the Washington D.C. to urge Congress to extend the Victim Compensation Fund and the World Trade Center Health Program.

"This is a very important moment for all of us," said a teary-eyed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. "All my gratitude goes to the first responders," she added. "This is my proudest day in Washington." Rep. Jerry Nadler echoed Gillibrand's sentiments: "I can finally say I'm proud of my country . . . Our heroes deserve never to worry that their health care will disappear, or that their families will struggle because of 9/11."

Sen. Chuck Schumer said those who rushed to the towers "will know that if they get sick because of their bravery, the federal government will be there for them."

The Zadroga Act reauthorization was part of an omnibus spending bill to keep the government funded. The measure passed in the House by a vote of 316-113 and in the Senate by a 65-33 vote. President Obama was expected to sign the bill into law.

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