Statement from Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act regarding cuts to compensation for those injured by 9/11 due to lack of funding

Statement from Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act regarding Cuts to Compensation for those Injured by 9/11 Due to Lack of Funding

Today’s announcement from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Special Master,  that there will be severe cuts to the pending compensation awards for injuries caused by the toxins at Ground Zero because of the increase in the numbers of claims is devastating news to the 9/11 community. It will impact thousands of injured 9/11 responders, survivors and their families who have been waiting for assistance for years and were expecting the help to finally arrive.

There is only one thing that can be done about this.

We need Congress to act, not only to fully fund the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund so it can deal with the dramatic increase in claims but to also prevent it from shutting down next year and closing its doors when its authorization expires.

We need Congress to pass the bipartisan “Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act,” which will be reintroduced on February 25th.

The legislation would fully fund the VCF, reverse these cuts in awards and keep the VCF open to deal with those that have yet to be impacted by the toxins at Ground Zero.

Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act believes that the Justice Department, which administers the VCF, has done a good job in fulfilling its obligations under the current law and the program’s current funding level.  It has fully supported the VCF staff who have made great strides in reducing the large backlog of claim determinations.

But under current law and with its current level of funding, the Justice Department has the responsibility and must manage the shortfall.  In publishing the “Notice of Inquiry” last fall and requesting public comments on how to handle the lack of funds, the Justice Department was diligent and transparent in its management of the VCF.

The shortfall in funding to pay claims is the result of the dramatic increases in cancers and claims for both cancer and non-cancer conditions over what was estimated in 2015.

As the VCF explained “To date, the VCF has awarded $5 billion of its $7.375 billion appropriation on over 21,000 claims.  With just over $2 billion remaining, nearly 20,000 additional claims and amendments (19,285) remain pending for determination and thousands more are expected to be filed.”

These numbers show that the shortfall in funding from what is needed to fully pay compensation claims to injured, ill and deceased 9/11 responders, survivors and their families is Congress’s problem to solve.

It is Congress’s responsibility to provide the VCF with all the funding needed to make sure that 9/11 responders and survivors get the help they need and deserve.

The number of people coming forward with illnesses and cancers related to their exposure to toxins at Ground Zero grows every single day.  Every other day another 9/11 responder or survivor reportedly dies from a 9/11 related cancer.  The magnitude of the 9/11 cancer problem, though obvious today, was not entirely known in 2015 when the VCF reauthorization was funded.  For some that have died from 9/11 illnesses, like those that do not have pensions and those that volunteered on 9/11 and answered the call, a VCF award is their family’s only financial support.

These are the facts today:

  • The more than 45,000 people who are in the World Trade Center Health program are suffering from at least one certified 9/11 condition caused by the toxins at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville crash site; a large percentage have multiple conditions.
  • Chronic diseases like asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and cancer continue to plague those who were exposed to the many toxins and carcinogens on 9/11 and in the weeks and months after.
  • Over 10,000 of those enrolled in the Health Program have been certified with a 9/11 related cancer, with more that are being diagnosed every day. Thousands more who have been diagnosed with cancer are only now joining the health program, so these numbers will increase dramatically.
  • 9/11 responders and survivors in the Health Program are in all 50 States and in 434 out of 435 Congressional Districts.

Congress must provide the funds needed by the VCF so that these cuts can be reversed—cuts that will impact the lives of those injured and still suffering, as well as the families of those that have died.

Remember, it was the Federal Government that said the air was safe to breathe.

It was also the Federal Government that refused for years to take responsibility, to do the research and respond to the health crisis that is facing so many.

We know that the sponsors of the “Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act,”, Senators Gillibrand, Schumer and Gardner and Representatives Maloney, Nadler and King-along with their colleagues from both parties will be working to get Washington to respond.

But they need help.

On our website you can find out if your Member of Congress is planning to support injured 9/11 Responders and Survivors and is going to co-sponsor the legislation to fully fund and extend the VCF.

If they are, thank them for supporting 9/11 responders and survivors, if not ask them to join.

Injured 9/11 responders, survivors and their families do not need speeches, they need action.   “Remembering 9/11” should be more than a bumpersticker.

Here is the url to this statement.

Benjamin Chevat
Executive Director Citizens for Extension of the James Zadroga Act, Inc.

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