U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey is preparing to make his case for extending health care to the first responders and survivors of the 9/11 attacks.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act funds medical treatment for those who contracted illnesses at Ground Zero, the ruins of the World Trade Center, as well as compensation for losses resulting from the attacks.
At a tour of the World Trade Center Health Program Clinic at Rutgers University Monday, Pallone, a Democrat representing the 6th District, spoke about the bill to reauthorize that legislation, which faces its first hearing Thursday.
“A lot of problems that resulted with first responders and volunteers after 9/11 are related to respiratory problems from the dust and toxic fumes they inhaled,” said Pallone. “They need this kind of specialized attention.”
Dr. Iris Udasin, medical director of the Rutgers clinic, will testify at the hearing, along with one of her patients, David Howley.
As the first responders grow older, they develop more health problems, Pallone said, making continued treatment vital.
“If the bill expires, there wouldn’t be any specialized centers looking into the effects of the dust and debris from the aftermath of 9/11, and that’s very important,” he said.
Congress passed the original bill in 2010, funding the World Trade Center Health Program until October of 2016. .
Pallone said he expects to face the same resistance in Congress that the bill faced the first time around, specifically from lawmakers who argue that the responsibility of medical treatment for first responders belongs with the governments of New York and New Jersey.
“I think that’s really a ridiculous argument,” said Pallone. “The people who responded to 9/11 are from all over the country.”
The Reauthorization Act estimates the cost of funding at $431 million for 2015, and it includes provisions to adjust for inflation for each subsequent fiscal year.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, also championed the Reauthorization Act in the Senate, along with 12 co-sponsors. The bill currently has 80 co-sponsors in the House.