Thousands of first responders and others exposed to the toxins of Ground Zero are now ill as a result and need our help. These include firefighters, rescue workers, responders, police officers and EMTs, construction workers, cleanup workers, residents, area workers, and school children, among others. Their illnesses include a range of respiratory, gastrointestinal, and mental health conditions.
It is estimated that over 31,000 World Trade Center (WTC) responders have received some form of treatment since 2006. Nearly 53,000 responders are enrolled in medical monitoring. 71,000 individuals are enrolled in the WTC Health Registry, indicating that they were exposed to the toxins. In addition to those from the New York City region, at least 10,000 people came from around the country to help in the aftermath of the attacks. They hail from every single state in the Union and nearly every congressional district. About 1,200 are receiving treatment and many are very concerned about their future health. Furthermore, those who have economic losses because of their WTC-related illnesses need and deserve compensation, but currently have no alternative to the current litigation system.
On September 30th, 2010, the House passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (H.R. 847) by a vote of 268-160 to provide funding for a Health Program to monitor and treat responders and community residents for health conditions related to the terrorist attacks. On December 22nd, 2010, the Senate passed an amended version of the bill by voice vote. The House passed the Senate Amendments to 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (H.R. 847) on December 22nd by a vote of 206-60, sending the bill to President Obama for his signature into law.
Key provisions of the Senate bipartisan agreement on 9/11 Health and Compensation Act:
The terms of the agreement adopt H.R. 847 with the following changes:
- Provide a total of $4.3 billion in funding for the health and compensation titles of the bill.
- Cap federal funding for the health program over five years at $1.5 billion (New York City will contribute 10% of the cost). Any funds not spent in the first five years may be carried over and expended in the sixth year of the program.
- Reopen the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) for five years to file claims, with payments to be made over six years. Fund the VCF at $2.8 billion for six years, with $.8 billion available for payments in the first five years and $2.0 billion available for payment in year six. Claims will be paid in 2 installments--one payment in the first five years, and a second payment in the sixth year of the program.
- The payfor in the House-passed version of the bill has been replaced by a 2 percent fee on government procurement from foreign companies located in non-GPA countries and a one-year extension of H-B1 and L-1 Visa fees for outsourcing companies. These are estimated by CBO to collect $4.59 billion over the 10-year scoring period for the bill.
- The bill is not only fully paid for, but will reduce the deficit by $450 million over the 10-year scoring period.
Others changes made in the bill to address Republican concerns:
- Requiring that the Centers of Excellence report claims data to HHS so that costs and utilization of services can be fully monitored.
- Specifying the non-treatment services furnished by Centers of Excellence to be funded under the health program (e.g. outreach, social services, data collection, development of treatment protocols).
- Authorizing the World Trade Center Program Administrator to designate the Veteran's Administration as a provider for WTC health services.
- Directing the Special Master to develop rules to implement the VCF within 180 days of passage of the legislation.