Senator Gillibrand Moves to Close a Funding Gap of $3.6 Billion in the 9/11 World Trade Center Health Program as Part of the End-Of-Year Spending Bill
The federal 9/11World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program aimed at helping people who were present during and after the attacks of September 11, 2001and became ill as a result—currently faces a funding gap of $3.6 million.
Without proper funding, the WTC Health Program, which provides medical treatment free of charge to those directly affected by the attacks, will be forced to make major cutbacks and stop accepting new members starting in two years.
To Close Funding Deficit, Sen. Gillibrand Pushes Congress to Pass Bill
To close the impending funding gap, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter to leadership pushing Congress to pass the “9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act,” which would deliver crucial supplemental funds to the WTC Health Program, allowing the program to continue its important work.
According to Sen. Gillibrand, the current funding for the program is insufficient to provide critical healthcare to the more than 117,000 9/11 responders and survivors. Common healthcare conditions covered by the program include cancer, airway, and digestive disorders, and mental health conditions. She has urged Congress to include the “9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act” as part of the end-of-year spending bill.
At a press conference in July 2022, Sen. Gillibrand said, “Unfortunately, funding for the WTCHP will run short soon and force benefit cutbacks unless Congress takes action. The 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act will close this funding gap and ensure the program has the resources it needs now and into the future. I am going to work with my colleagues to include this legislation either in the upcoming reconciliation package or in this year’s defense bill. I will never take no for an answer when our 9/11 heroes’ health benefits are in jeopardy.”
The 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act,” was introduced in August 2021 by Democratic New York Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, with support from Representative Andrew Garbarino and Sen. Gillibrand. It has not yet moved past its introductory phase.
World Trade Center Health Program Supports 9/11 Responders and Survivors
In 2011, the WTC Health Program was established by the 2010 James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The program was passed with bipartisan support to provide medical treatment and monitoring for hundreds of thousands of responders and survivors impacted by the 9/11 attacks in New York, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. This includes police, firefighters, and cleanup volunteers who have struggled with the mental and physical effects of the attacks in the intervening two decades.
Those who qualify and enroll in the program can get financial compensation over their lifespan for medical treatments and services for healthcare conditions sustained in relation to the attacks. Members can access medical services completely for free, which means that they can get the critical care that they need.
Originally passed with a five-year authorization, the program was reauthorized in 2015 and extended through 2090 with bipartisan support. But if no new funds are allotted, the program projects that its ability to provide service will be impacted beginning in 2025—even though new members who need crucial support continue to enroll.
Hundreds of Responders and Survivors Enroll in World Trade Center Health Program Every Month
Even though more than two decades have passed since the 9/11 attacks, responders and survivors continue to struggle with mental and physical ailments. Every month, hundreds enroll in the program to get the help and support they need.
In September 2022, 812 responders and survivors enrolled, and in August 2022, 592 people enrolled. As of September 2022, the WTC Health Program had just over 120,000 members in total.
The enrollment process in the WTC Health Program requires documentation that the applicant is one of the following:
- Fire Department-City of New York responder
- WTC General Responder
- Pentagon/Shanksville responder
- WTC survivor
Responders and survivors must also present proof of presence in the dust cloud or the NYC Disaster Area between September 11, 2001, and July 31, 2002, for a specified amount of time.
However, without adequate funding, the WTC Health Program will be forced to make major cutbacks and stop accepting new members starting in two years. This will be devastating for survivors and responders who still need support.
Responders and Survivors Struggle with Post 9/11 Illnesses
Many responders and survivors sustained acute injuries after the attacks, such as burns, broken bones, lacerations, head trauma, and organ damage. As weeks passed, several people developed a chronic cough and respiratory symptoms. Now, decades later, many continue to suffer from long-term health conditions from psychological and physical trauma.
The most common illnesses are aerodigestive conditions. According to the WTC Health Program, the most common conditions are asthma, chronic rhinosinusitis, chronic respiratory disorder, and gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD).
More and more people are developing cancer as a result of the toxins they were exposed to during and after 9/11. Researchers in a 2021 study in Scientific American found 60 different types of cancer and more than 24 other conditions linked to Ground Zero exposures. The study concluded that 74 percent of responders in the WTC Health Program had been diagnosed with at least one physical or mental health condition directly linked to the 9/11 attacks, including 20 percent with cancer.
We Are Here to Help. Contact an Experienced Attorney Today
At Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP, our experienced attorneys are devoted to helping 9/11 responders and victims understand their rights and get the medical and financial support they need and deserve. To learn more about our services and how we can help you, please call us at 332-239-1880 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your needs.