By Bill Parry
With cancer rates continuing to rise among 9/11 first responders, residents and workers after the 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, the Victim Compensation Fund is in danger of running out of funding and is set to expire in 2020.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced last Friday bipartisan legislation to permanently reauthorize and fund the VCF to ensure that 9/11 first responders and survivors will be compensated for their suffering, lost wages and families.
“We need to permanently authorize and fund the VCF as soon as possible and make sure the VCF has the additional funding it needs to cover the anticipated shortfall. When we vowed to never forget after the 9/11 terrorist attacks — it also meant that we would never leave our heroes without the support they need,” Maloney said.
“As scientists and doctors predicted, and as we feared, cancer rates are continuing to rise in first responder and survivor communities. Some of these heroes have been battling these diseases for years and others are being newly diagnosed as we speak,” she added. “For their sake, and the diagnoses still to come, we cannot allow the fund to run out of money — it would be devastating to those who rely on it each and every day. As each day passed without permanent reauthorization and full funding, anxiety and suffering from — and that is unacceptable. Our 9/11 heroes answered the call when we were attacked, and now Congress needs to answer the call and stand up for them.”
In the 17 years since the attacks, tens of thousands more men and women, including first responders, relief workers and local residents have lost their lives or gotten sick after they were exposed to a toxic cocktail of burning chemicals, pulverized drywall and powdered cement. This year, the number of cancer certifications by the World Trade Center Health Program reached over 10,000 cases.
“Thousands of firefighters, police officers, federal and local law enforcement officers, medical workers, construction workers, and other heroes risked their lives for us after we were attacked on 9/11. They didn’t back down when we needed them, and now, as the cancer rates in the 9/11 first responder community are higher than ever and the 9/11 death toll continues to rise 17 years after the attacks, Congress needs to stand up for them,” Gillibrand said. “We simply cannot turn our backs on our 9/11 heroes and their families, and pass this bipartisan bill to permanently reauthorize the VCF now. Anything less would serve a cruel message to our heroes and their families that Congress is shrugging its shoulders at their suffering. We can and must pass this bipartisan bill now.”
Already, the VCF has approved over 19,204 claims.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr