September 11th first responders, survivors, their families, union leaders and activists joined with writer, host and political commentator Jon Stewart, Congress Members Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Peter King (R-NY) and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday to introduce the bipartisan Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act and call for its swift passage.
The bipartisan legislation introduced on February 25th would ensure that all September 11th first responders and survivors who have been made ill by the toxins at Ground Zero and have certified September 11th illnesses would receive their full compensation through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) now and into the future, as more people become ill with September 11th-related cancers. The bill would also close the funding gap recently announced by the VCF special master.
“We need to get to work to make sure the Victim Compensation Fund is there for all those who were made sick and injured, and the families of those killed because of the toxins at Ground Zero. And that starts with today’s introduction of the Never Forget the Heroes Act,” said Congress Member Maloney. “We promised sick and injured September 11th first responders and survivors that we would fully compensate them for the losses they have suffered. We need to live up to that promise. They shouldn’t have to come begging for us to do our jobs. They’ve done that too many times before. Let’s make this time different and quickly pass this bill.”
On February 15th, 2019, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund announced that due to a funding shortfall, injured and ill 9/11 responders and survivors will receive cuts to the awards that they were expecting of 50% for pending claims and 70% for future claims.
The legislators explained in a prepared statement that in the years since 9/11/2001, thousands of 9/11 responders and survivors have become ill and many have lost their lives from exposure to a toxic cocktail of burning chemicals, pulverized drywall and powdered cement that was present at Ground Zero. After years of urging Congress to act, in 2010 and again in 2015, legislation was passed to provide medical monitoring and treatment through the World Trade Center Health Program and compensation through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for thousands made sick by the toxins at Ground Zero, as well as at the Pentagon and the Shanksville, PA crash site. Now, after waiting years for compensation that they need and deserve, thousands are facing dramatically reduced awards, and unless Congress acts, the VCF will actually be closing next year just as thousands more 9/11 responders and survivors are expected to be diagnosed with 9/11 cancers and other illnesses.
This legislation is designed to ensure that the VCF is fully funded and will remain open for those that will become ill in the future.
“We have a grand opportunity to finally do the right thing and allow those who always answered the call for us to know that we have their backs,” said Jon Stewart.
“Cancer rates in the 9/11 first responder community are rising faster than ever before, and that means our 9/11 heroes are going to need the VCF more urgently than ever before,” said US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “We must pass this bipartisan bill to make the VCF permanent with full funding so that when our 9/11 heroes get that terrifying call from the doctor, they’ll at least have the peace of mind that the VCF will be there for them and their families.”
Senator Schumer said, “For too many, ailments and disease from exposure to that toxic airborne brew have taken years to show up and – as the need for the fund grows – the chance it may not have adequate resources to take care of our heroes is just unacceptable.”
Senator Gardner said, ”Unfortunately, thousands of first responders and survivors, including many who reside in my home state of Colorado, suffer from illnesses and diseases from toxins at Ground Zero. I’m proud to join in introducing this bipartisan legislation to close funding gaps in the Victim Compensation Fund to make sure these heroes and their families receive the care they need and deserve.”
Congress Member Jerrold Nadler (DNY) said, “It is imperative that we pass this bill as quickly as possible to make the VCF permanent and ensure the firefighters, police officers, federal and local law enforcement officers, medical workers, construction workers, and other heroes who selflessly rushed to Ground Zero to help have access to the care they deserve.”
“We have come too far to fail now,” said Congress Member King. “In order to ensure the continuation of the Victims Compensation Fund we must enlist political support from all regions and parties.”