Today, President Obama signed into law legislation authored by New York Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Peter King (R-NY) to address the health crisis caused by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, provides health care for those exposed to toxins released by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. The bill also reopens the federal Victim Compensation Fund to provide economic relief to those harmed by the attacks.
The House passed the bill in September with a strong bipartisan majority. On December 22nd, the Senate passed by voice vote an amended version of the bill that reduces the bill's cost to $4.3 billion over five years. The House approved the Senate's changes shortly afterward by a vote of 206-60. A summary of the Zadroga law can be found below.
The passage of H.R. 847 represents a victory for ailing 9/11 first responders and survivors who have waited more than nine years for the federal government to approve a comprehensive plan to deal with the public health disaster caused by the attacks.
"At long last, the President's signature has ended our nine-year struggle to address the 9/11 health crisis. The Zadroga law will save lives and fulfills our moral obligation to care for those who rose to the defense of America in a time of war," said Rep. Maloney. "I thank President Obama, Senators Gillibrand and Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader Hoyer for their dedication to those who are ailing because of 9/11, and I remain eternally grateful to my friends and co-authors, Jerry Nadler and Peter King, and all our colleagues in the New York delegation, as well as John Feal and Joseph Zadroga --who have been warriors for this bill- for making possible this wonderful victory for 9/11 responders and survivors. I would also like to express my appreciation to Denis Hughes and his team at the New York State AFL-CIO, and the Uniformed Firefighters and Fire Officers Associations, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, and all our brothers and sisters in the labor movement for their hard work to turn the Zadroga Act into the Zadroga law."
"Finally, today, nine years after the devastation of 9/11, the United States has honored its obligation to the heroes and survivors of 9/11," said Rep. Nadler. "With President Obama's signing of our bill -- the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act -- into law, it is clear that the government has not forgotten the thousands who have served and suffered. I thank President Obama for his support, and join my many colleagues and allies who have worked so hard on this in toasting a profound victory."
"This is a great victory for the heroes of September 11th, the firefighters, police officers and construction workers. Justice is finally being served. A great day for America," said King.
The Zadroga Act is historic, but not unprecedented, legislation. In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks, Congress passed the War Hazards Compensation Act of 1942, which provided health care and financial relief to civilians who helped recover the dead and salvage what remained of our Pacific fleet. In passing the Zadroga Act, Congress has once again demonstrated that our nation will not abandon those harmed by an attack on our shores.
Fact Sheet on the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act:
The terms of the Senate agreement adopt H.R. 847 with the following changes:
* Provide a total of $4.3 billion in funding for the health and compensation titles of the bill.
* Cap federal funding for the health program over five years at $1.5 billion (New York City will contribute 10% of the cost). Any funds not spent in the first five years may be carried over and expended in the sixth year of the program.
* Reopen the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) for five years to file claims, with payments to be made over six years. Fund the VCF at $2.8 billion for six years, with $.8 billion available for payments in the first five years and $2.0 billion available for payment in year six. Claims will be paid in 2 installments--one payment in the first five years, and a second payment in the sixth year of the program.
* The pay-for in the House-passed version of the bill has been replaced by a 2 percent fee on government procurement from foreign companies located in non-GPA countries and a one-year extension of H-B1 and L-1 Visa fees for outsourcing companies. These are estimated by CBO to collect $4.59 billion over the 10-year scoring period for the bill.
* The bill is not only fully paid for, but will reduce the deficit by $450 million over the 10-year scoring period.
Others changes made in the bill to address Republican concerns:
* Requiring that the Centers of Excellence report claims data to HHS so that costs and utilization of services can be fully monitored.
* Specifying the non-treatment services furnished by Centers of Excellence to be funded under the health program (e.g. outreach, social services, data collection, development of treatment protocols).
* Authorizing the World Trade Center Program Administrator to designate the Veteran's Administration as a provider for WTC health services.
* Directing the Special Master to develop rules to implement the VCF within 180 days of passage of the legislation.