Zadroga one step closer to law

BY Aline Reynolds

Nine years after the September 11th attacks, victims nationwide who volunteered at the site are one step closer to getting medical help and economic compensation.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health Bill and Compensation Act (H.R. 847) passed the House of Representatives by a 268-160 vote on Wednesday, just over 15 months after it was first introduced in its comprehensive form. If passed in the Senate, the bill will offer health care to 9/11 first responders and other survivors exposed to the dangerous airborne toxins in the days and months following the attacks.

The $7.4 billion law offers medical monitoring and treatment to residents, workers and students, and expands on the existing program by providing expert care at the Centers of Excellence at Bellevue Hospital, Elmhurst Hospital and Gouverneur Health Care Services.

The bill reopens the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to reimburse victims for financial losses as an alternative option to taking the city to court. It also provides legal protections to the city and W.T.C. construction firms involved in the dismantling of the destroyed buildings surrounding Ground Zero. It was on the House floor in July, but did not get the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.

Around 36,000 Americans have been treated for 9/11-related illnesses and injuries, and more than 53,000 responders are currently registered for medical monitoring. An estimated 71,000 people are enrolled in the W.T.C. Health Registry, claiming they were susceptible to toxins.

Sponsored by New York Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, Peter King and Michael McMahon, the Zadroga bill now awaits Senate approval.

“We’re working closely with Senate majority leader Harry Reid to bring the bill to a vote in the senate by the end of the year,” said Joe Soldevere, spokesperson for Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

Nonetheless, the House vote Wednesday was a major victory in the eyes of the bill’s proponents.

“Today, Members of the House put aside politics and made history by voting in favor of justice and care for the first responders and survivors of 9/11,” said Nadler in a statement. “I’m so proud of this victory and I’m moved by the prospect of finally, after nine long years, delivering what thousands of ailing Americans have been waiting for.”