Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart will rally today in Washington DC with 9/11 first responders and recovery workers, survivors and their families, physicians, and advocates to lobby Congress for a permanent extension and funding for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act.
In 2010, when the original legislation was before Congress, Stewart aired an entire show focused on 9/11 illnesses and deaths. The Zadroga Act was passed the following week and many believe Stewart’s advocacy played a significant role in its passage. But key provisions of the act—the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF)—are set to expire unless Congress extends the act.
In April 2015, a bipartisan group of Senators and House members introduced legislation in both chambers for permanent extension of the Zadroga Act programs: HR. 1786/S. 928. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is a key sponsor and advocate in the bipartisan group of 37 senators and 151 House members.
National law firm Parker Waichman LLP has been involved from the start in the fight to ensure that the heroes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks are never forgotten. The firm will be among the groups and individuals rallying today for permanent extension of programs crucial to many survivors and their families. Matthew J. McCauley, a 9/11 responder and now senior litigation counsel at Parker Waichman, says, “These individuals answered the call for help at a time when their country needed them most.” McCauley worked for passage of the original legislation and believes the responders and their families deserve continued benefits.
Citizens for Extension of the Zadroga Act says participants in the Zadroga Act’s health and compensation programs live in all 50 states and in 429 of the 435 congressional districts. The original bill provided benefits through the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, which supplies medical treatment and monitoring, and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).
Deaths and illnesses did not end on the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Citizens says. The effects of toxic exposure, including cancers and lung disease, continue to emerge. Thousands of people involved in the rescue and recovery effort worked without proper protective equipment and were exposed to the dangerous chemicals, carcinogens, asbestos, and pulverized cement that were released when the Twin Towers fell.
More than 85 NYPD officers and 130 firefighters have died from 9/11 injuries since the day of the attacks, according to Citizens for Extension of the Zadroga Act. More than 33,000 9/11 responders and survivors have been diagnosed with an illness or injury linked to the attacks and their aftermath, and many have more than one such illness. Many of them are disabled by their illnesses and are no longer able to work. The illnesses include asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and cancers. Researchers have identified more than 50 types of cancer caused by 9/11 toxins.
“Some responders and survivors may not even be aware that they are suffering from a condition due to 9/11,” said Gary Falkowitz, managing attorney at Parker Waichman. These individuals will lose access to critical medical care, monitoring, and compensation unless the Zadroga act is extended, he said. The health care portion of the act expires next month and the money for the services will be depleted by October 2016.
Parker Waichman is participating in today’s rally to ensure Zadroga act compensation and services remain available to those who will need them in coming years.