Congress members propose extending James Zadroga Act permanently

Rachel Shapiro Staten Island Advance

Congress members primarily from New York are urging their colleagues across the country to extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act that provides health care and financial compensation to those who fell ill following the September 11 attacks.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) led a press conference Tuesday in Washington, D.C., surrounded by senators and representatives from both parties, noting the importance of extending the life of the act, part of which is set to expire in October.

Ms. Gillibrand noted that people from 429 out of 435 congressional districts in the country are enrolled in the programs offered by the act, making 9/11 not an attack on New York but an attack on the country.

It’s important that the country continue to help those who were “willing to risk their lives in a dangerous place when our nation needed them the most,” she said.

While almost 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, more than 33,000 responders, as well as survivors of the attacks, including area residents and workers, have an illness or injury caused by the attacks or their aftermath.

Tens of thousands more have died of 9/11-related illnesses.

Because of this, “Congress has a moral obligation” to renew the act to provide health care and compensation, Ms. Gillibrand said.

Standing in the nation’s capital were Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens), Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx), Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-Bronx, Harlem), Rep. Jerald Nadler (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn), Rep. Nadia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens), Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island), Rep. Steve Israel (D-Long Island), Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Long Island) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Long Island) among others, including labor leaders and first responder proponents.

Many speakers thanked Joe Zadroga, father of fallen NYPD Officer James Zadroga, who fell ill and died following 9/11.

Schumer noted that instead of “cursing the darkness,” Joe Zadroga “lit a candle” and pushed the government to care for those who were injured.

“This isn’t a New York battle, this is an American battle,” Schumer said. “When people volunteer and risk their lives for our safety, we don’t forget them.”

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) noted that while the attacks were on New York, Shanksville, Pa., and Washington, D.C., people from all over the country have been affected by the attacks.

“As a Republican from the heartland, I’m going to say that I love New York,” Kirk said.

Nadler said the government has a moral obligation to the people who sacrificed their health to help others. He quoted President Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address: Government must “care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.”

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act passed in 2010, part will expire this October and another part will expire October 2016. Members of the House and Senate will introduce bills to extend the act indefinitely.

Because private health insurance doesn’t pay for work-related illnesses, those with 9/11-related illnesses do not get coverage.

John Feel [sic — Feal] of the Long Island-based FeelGood [sic – FealGood] Foundation, which advocates for 9/11 first responders, named several people with cancer, pulmonary fibrosis and other 9/11-related diseases in states all across America.

“You get it? I can keep going on,” he said. Congress better pass the extension bills because “after that we will either be your BFFs or we’ll be the world’s biggest pains in the asses,” he added.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Upstate New York) echoed that sentiment.

“God help anyone who gets in our way,” he said.

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