FDNY travels to DC to support extension of 9/11 healthcare

Philip Messing New York Post

More than 100 FDNY smoke-eaters will descend on Washington, D.C., Thursday morning to support new legislation to provide indefinite health benefits for those sickened by cancer or other chronic diseases due to their work at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks.

The bill — The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act — is designed to renew the original so-called Zadroga legislation passed by President Obama in December 2010 that provided health benefits for first-responders and civilian volunteers who became ill in that aftermath of 9/11.

Those benefits will expire in October.

Among the firefighters and fire officers expected to show up for Thursday’s hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building will be some who suffer from serious health problems, including several who will testify before a hearing of theHealth Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“We’re feeling optimistic because despite the Washington mindset, where there is often bi-partisan bickering, in this case, there appears to be bi-partisan support,” said FDNY Deputy Chief Richard Alles, who is also the legislative director of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association and will be among those testifying.

Alles told The Post his union has registered support from over 70,000 first responders from throughout the country, including every congressional district in the nation.

He added that he’s encouraged about the prospects of getting the needed legislation passed and signed into law before existing health care benefits end, although accomplishing this is not exactly a slam dunk due to “pitfalls in the political process.”

“Of course, knowing the Washington bureaucracy for what it is, there are always hurdles that need to be overcome,” he said. “But we will know after the hearing tomorrow whether those hurdles will be easily overcome or if there will have to be additional efforts undertaken.”

A bipartisan group of local congressional members — including Peter King; Carolyn Maloney; Jerry Nadler; and Lee Zeldin — are expected to be on hand for the hearing.

James Zadroga was a NYPD officer who joined in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero and passed away in 2006 at age 34 because of health complications relating to 9/11.

More than 106 firefighters have died from 9/11-related health factors and over 1,000 are seriously sick, a UFOA spokesman said.

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