Legislation that will ensure that the men and women who responded to the horrific attacks on September 11, 2001 have access to healthcare for the injuries they sustained has finally passed the House and Senate and is on its way to the President's desk.
"The actions taken by our emergency responders on September 11th reminded all Americans that when challenged, everyday men and women become heroes," said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), a cosponsor of the bill and member of the 9/11 Health Caucus formed in 2007 by Members of the House to propose legislative solutions for the medical problems of first responders. "This law ensures that Congress honors their sacrifice and provides tangible benefits to aid them through their battles with these serious, and unfortunately, sometimes fatal, illnesses."
Once signed into law, the "James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010" will provide relief to first responders in New Jersey and around the nation who suffer from respiratory diseases and other illnesses associated with the Ground Zero rescue, recovery and clean-up.
Eligible emergency responders, local residents or workers who were adversely impacted by the attacks will now have access to health evaluations and medical monitoring and treatment benefits. The bill establishes the World Trade Center Health Program, to be operated by the Department of Health and Human Services, and will provide clinical data collection of the physical and mental health of individuals enrolled in the program to determine the best approaches to care. The law will also reopen the victims' compensation fund for another five years to cover wage and other economic losses of sickened workers and nearby residents.
Over 57,000 people are eligible for services through the program and more than 8,000 New Jersey residents can apply for healthcare when the program begins on July 1, 2011.
"The legislation passed today helps fulfill a commitment that we as a nation made on September 11th," Smith said. "While it's long overdue, our emergency responders will now have access to the life-saving healthcare services that they earned through their bravery and dedication during one of the darkest times in our country's history."