Zadroga Act: 9/11 Healthcare Bill Renewal Has Stalled In Congress

James Zadroga’s life was changed forever, as were the lives of countless others, on September 11, 2001. Zadroga was a member of the NYPD on 9/11 and like many others he spent countless hours at the site of the Twin Towers helping with the rescue effort. Zadroga soon became ill. It was discovered that the illness Zadroga was dealing with could be directly linked to the dust that he inhaled from the debris caused by the 9/11 terrorist attack. At age 34, James Zadroga died on January 5, 2006. An act bearing his name, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, was established by the government in order to help other emergency service personnel who were exposed to the same things that James was on 9/11. On October 1, 2015, the Zadroga Act expired, leaving the hundreds of emergency service personnel who risked their lives on 9/11 now fighting for their own lives by themselves.

The New York City Council has sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In the letter, the council pushes McConnell to get the Zadroga Act renewed and to make it into a permanent law. Melissa Mark-Viverito, the Speaker for the New York City Council, said, “The extension of the Zadroga Act is a reaffirmation of our solemn duty as a nation to protect those that sacrifice in the service of our country.”

In the letter sent to the Senate by the New York City Council members, the members speak about the heroism that first responders showed on 9/11.

“For New Yorkers, the heroism and selflessness that our first responders displayed at the WTC by working to save lives, searching for our fallen city residents and helping to clear the debris so that we could rebuild is permanently etched into our collective memories. Unfortunately, many of these first responders have developed serious health conditions from their time at the WTC.”

The Zadroga Act was set up in order to make funds available to help the people who were exposed to toxins while working at Ground Zero. Now that the Zadroga Act has been allowed to expire, the emergency service personnel who cannot afford the health care that they desperately need are forced to wait and see if the Zadroga Act will be renewed. While Congress is taking their time in renewing the Zadroga Act, people are dying from various cancers that they received at Ground Zero.

Zadroga Act Renewal Rally

“I find it hard to believe. The effect it [World Trade Center illnesses] has had on members of this department … and on our families is devastating. World Trade Center illness is not going away, and this program cannot go away either.”

Currently, at least 1,000 firefighters are fighting illnesses acquired from being exposed to substances from Ground Zero.

The Zadroga Act was supposed to be part of the highway bill that was recently passed. Many are blaming Senator Mitch McConnell for failing to make sure that the act stayed attached to the highway bill. McConnell has since said that the Zadroga Act will be attached to an omnibus spending bill, but Congress still needs to find funding for it. Congress only has a short time left before they go on recess for the holidays. Each day that goes by without a vote on the Zadroga Act is a day in which hundreds of first responders are forced to go without treatment for their Ground Zero-related illnesses.

Susan Marcoux, the wife of an FDNY firefighter who responded to Ground Zero, spoke with this reporter about how she feels about the failure of Congress to renew the Zadroga Act.

“It angers me so very much, that every politician has wrapped themselves in a banner of sympathy regarding 9/11 when it has served their purpose. I cannot understand why ‘our’ government is holding first responders hostage – by not renewing/extending the Zadroga Act on its own, and why they feel the need to tack it onto new legislation that they can’t get passed on its own merit.”

The Zadroga Act was put in place in order to make sure that the people who risked their lives on 9/11 would not be abandoned by their government. Why do you think the Zadroga Act has not yet been renewed?

[Image Via AP Photo/Mark Lennihan]