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Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act Renewal Included an Omnibus Spending Bill

Dec 18, 2015

Included in the omnibus spending bill now before Congress is the renewal of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, the legislation that provides benefits to first responders who became ill after the September 11 attacks.

The Zadroga Act funding is $8.1 billion in the $1.1 trillion year-end tax and spending bill, according to ABC7 (New York). Under the agreement, the two major Victim Compensation Fund will be fully funded through 2021, and the World Trade Center Health program will be renewed until 2090.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named for an NYPD officer who died of a respiratory illness attributed to his participation in the 9/11 rescue and recovery effort, was signed into law in 2011. The act established two major programs for responders and survivors. The Victim's Compensation Fund provides compensation to responders and survivors who suffered injuries and economic losses because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program provides medical treatment and monitoring. The WTC Health Program monitors more than 70,000 people and treats about 33,000.

The WTC Health Program funding expired in October 2015 and the VCF was set to expire in October 2016. New York's junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, worked to pass the original legislation and has been a key member of the bipartisan group of 37 senators and 151 House members working for permanent extension of the Zadroga Act.

Sen. Gillibrand said, "Our 9/11 first responders never should have been forced to travel to Washington and walk the halls of Congress-legislation this important shouldn't have needed so much convincing-but after dozens of trips, they finally got the job done."

Sen. Charles Schumer called the Zadroga Act extension "the Christmas the 9/11 responders deserved: some peace of mind for each and every hero. Their selfless actions in response to that tragic day deserve a lifetime's worth of care and respect."

The Zadroga Act programs are crucial resources for the many responders suffering from serious medical conditions as a result of toxic exposures on 9/11 and during the recovery and cleanup operations. Some responders and survivors became ill soon after 9/11 but many 9/11-related illnesses, including lung problems and a number of cancers, took years to develop. Thousands of people involved in the rescue and recovery effort were exposed to a wide array of toxic chemicals, carcinogens, asbestos, and pulverized cement that were released when the Twin Towers fell. Tens of thousands of people were exposed to toxic dust and other toxins.

The nonprofit group Citizens for Extension of the Zadroga Act reports that more than 85 NYPD officers and 130 firefighters have died from injuries and illnesses since the attacks. More than 33,000 9/11 responders and survivors have been diagnosed with an illness or injury linked to the attacks, or their aftermath and many of them suffer from more than one 9/11-related illness. Many of them are disabled and no longer able to work and Zadroga Act compensation is crucial to them and their families. They suffer a variety of chronic and deadly diseases, including asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and more than 50 types of cancer. Health experts expect that 9/11 illnesses will continue to emerge for years to come.

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