For Release December 16, 2015|
Congressional Action on Crucial Legislation has been a Long Time Coming, Shows Bipartisan Support for 9-11 Survivors
International Association of Firefighters Association (IAFF) General President Harold A. Schaitberger, Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) President Stephen Cassidy and Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) President James Lemonda today hailed the agreement to extend the James L. Zadroga 9-11 Health & Compensation Act for delivering on a promise long ago made to first responders who answered the call when the nation was attacked.
The bill provides health care for those sickened by the toxins in the air around Ground Zero in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. It expired in the fall and was at risk of not being funded. Congress included the extension – as well as funding for the Victims Compensation Fund – in its omnibus spending package, which must pass by the end of the week.
“The eyes of our 300,000 members across the country have been focused on Washington, where we have been waiting for Congress to provide the funding necessary to provide the health care that first responders deserve,” IAFF General President Schaitberger said. “The next terrorist attack could strike anywhere. It is extremely important that our members know our nation’s leaders will be there for them should they need this type of protection. I want to thank the leadership of both parties for coming together in agreement on this bill and funding.”
“New York City remains the No. 1 target for terrorism and our firefighters stand ready to respond should tragedy strike again,” UFA President Cassidy said. “The job our members do is more dangerous than it has ever been and at any moment, firefighters will be expected to once again run into harm’s way. By reauthorizing the Zadroga Act in a bipartisan manner, Congress is reaffirming its support for those firefighters who sacrificed their health and, tragically, their lives while effectuating the largest civilian evacuation on U.S. soil, as 25,000 were saved on 9-11. After many months and years of fighting in Washington, DC for a permanent solution, it is good to finally have this result. Our thanks go out to the New York delegation and the Congressional leadership for seeing this result to the end.”
Beyond the 343 New York City Firefighters who lost their lives in the terror attacks, more than 120 have since died from cancers and rare diseases and more than 1,000 more are seriously ill from weeks and months of toxic exposure at the World Trade Center site. Firefighters who served at Ground Zero lost an average of 12 years’ lung capacity and cancers among that group are up over 30 percent. Important pre 9-11 health data was available for every New York City Firefighter because the FDNY conducted thorough annual medical of every member of the department.
“Our Fire Officers were on the front lines on that horrific day when terrorists attacked our city and our nation and in the months that followed,” Chief Lemonda said. “Many of our members have suffered and continue to suffer from the effects of working at Ground Zero. Our nation has a responsibility to provide the care they need, just as we provide for our wounded soldiers. We must never forget what they did, just as we must never forget the lives that were lost.”
Leaders and members of the IAFF, UFA and UFOA and seriously ill firefighters have been an aggressive presence in Washington meeting and speaking with lawmakers and key staff, advocating for the extension of the Zadroga Bill since early in the year. Though the unions and sick firefighters believe it took far too long, Congressional leaders of both parties recognized the necessity of continuing to provide health care to firefighters and other first responders who risked their lives.
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