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Tuesday, September 29, 2015
ENP STAFF REPORTS
news@eastniagarapost.com


Kirsten Gillibrand
WASHINGTON, D.C. — With one day left before the expiration of the World Trade Center Health Program, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand today spoke on the Senate floor to once again urge Congress to pass a permanent extension of the programs on which 9/11 first responders, survivors and their families rely on. Since the 14th anniversary of the attacks just two over two weeks ago, six first responders died from 9/11-related illnesses. Over 1,700 people have passed away from a 9/11 related illnesses.

Earlier this month, hundreds of first responders and advocates – including former Daily Show host Jon Stewart – lobbied Congress in support of the permanent reauthorization of the Zadroga Act. Since then, 20 Senators – 14 Democrats and six Republicans – have cosponsored the bill, called the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. A total of 57 Senators now support it.

Created in 2010, the World Trade Center Health Program provides treatment and medical care to 33,000 first responders and survivors suffering from at least one 9/11-related illness or injury. More than 72,000 first responders and survivors receive medical monitoring to screen for cancers and other diseases observed in the 9/11 population. Participants in the World Trade Center Health Program live in all 50 states, and in 429 of the 435 Congressional Districts. Without renewal, the program’s authorization will expire at midnight on September 30, putting these critical services in jeopardy.

Another program established as a part of the Zadroga Act, the Victims Compensation Fund, will expire in October 2016. The Fund provides financial aid to responders, survivors and families who suffered economic losses as a result of 9/11-related injuries.

Gillibrand’s prepared remarks follow in their entirety:
Mr. President, we just passed the 14th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

Americans all across the country honored the memory of the 2,977 lives lost.

There were moments of silence. There were testimonials from friends and family of the victims.

And there were statements and speeches and posts online by my colleagues in Congress, vowing to ‘never forget.’

But the victims of September 11th are not just the men and women who were killed on that terrible day. The terror attack on that day in 2001 is still claiming American lives.

This includes the heroes who ran into the towers to save whom they could, who worked on the pile so that America might rebuild, who would not abandon their community in a time of terrifying confusion and intense grief.

Many of them are now sick because of their work at Ground Zero. Many are dying.

In 2010, after years of delay, we established the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation programs, to provide the first responders, the survivors, and their families with the healthcare and benefits they need.

And tomorrow, at midnight, the bill authorizing this funding will expire.

More than 33,000 first responders and survivors have an illness or injury caused by the attacks or their aftermath.

More than 1,700 have passed away from a 9/11-related illness.

More cops have died from 9/11-related illnesses, than died on 9/11 itself.

And since the 14th anniversary of the attacks earlier this month, another six 9/11 first responders died.

Think about that, in just a few short weeks, 6 more of our 9/11 heroes have died.

John P. McKee. Roy McLaughlin. Reginald Umpthery. Kevin Kelly. Thomas Zayas. Paul McCabe.”

They were married. They had children. Their average age was 53 years old.

They will miss birthday parties and graduations. They will miss evening dinners and holidays.

They leave behind mortgages, car payments, and college tuition payments.

These 9/11 illnesses not only rob families of their loved ones but leave them to face expenses without – in many cases – the family’s primary breadwinner.

Two weeks ago, hundreds of first responders traveled to Washington, from all over the country, to lobby Congress not to let their healthcare program expire.

If Congress doesn’t act now, how many more first responders and their families are going to suffer – medically and financially – because we didn’t do our job and reauthorize this program?

Mr. President, let me tell you about one responder, Ken George, from Long Island.

Ken was 37 on September 11, 2001. He was working for the New York City Highway Department, and after the attacks, he went in to do search and rescue work. He was there for a couple of weeks.

Almost right away, Ken developed a cough. Then asthma. And then the asthma led to restricted airway disease.

Doctors found crushed glass from Ground Zero in his lungs.

He was forced to retire in 2006 because his medical ailments became too burdensome and now, as he put it, he’s ‘financially hurting like you wouldn’t believe.’

Mr. President, we’re not talking about statistics. We’re not talking about data-points on a chart.

We’re talking about a 51-year-old man with a wife, three kids, and crushed glass in his lungs because he chose to serve his country and search for survivors after 9/11.

And on top of everything else he’s dealing with, Ken now has to worry if he’ll get the health treatment he needs, and if his family will receive the financial support they need.

The health program officially expires tomorrow – at midnight – but these illnesses – Ken’s and thousands of others – they will not expire. Neither should their healthcare.

Mr. President, we must reauthorize and make permanent the World Trade Center Health Program and the Victims Compensation Fund.

The participants in the health program live in every single state.

They live in 429 of the 435 Congressional Districts.

Every Senator in this chamber has constituents who are sick and are in the program.

Mr. President, a majority of this body has already signed on as co-sponsors of this legislation, including many after our day of action earlier this month.

So let’s finish the job. Let’s give our 9/11 heroes the care and compensation they deserve – and so desperately need. Let’s truly ‘never forget.’ The clock is ticking. Let’s do our job.

I yield the floor.



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