By Mike Hall
A proposed settlement has been reached of the more than 10,000 lawsuits by the rescue and recovery workers suffering serious illnesses from the toxic mix of chemicals, jet fuel, asbestos and other debris they were exposed to at Ground Zero of the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack in 2001.
But congressional and union leaders say much more must be done to provide justice and health care for the nearly 60,000 workers and community members whose health is at risk from their exposure to the contaminated rubble.
Denis Hughes, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, says the proposal, which would establish a compensation fund of up to $657 million, will provide those involved in the lawsuit “some long overdue compensation for their injuries.” But he adds:
"There are many more individuals who are sick than those who filed lawsuits….Overall, more than 55,000 responders and 4,500 community members are receiving medical monitoring and/or treatment in this program due to their 9/11 exposures and illnesses….These individuals need ongoing medical care, and those who are sick need to be fairly compensated for their losses."
In an op-ed in the New York Daily News, Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), authors of the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (H.R. 847)— which would establish a medical monitoring and treatment program for the Sept. 11 first responders and the community at the site of the attacks—say the settlement alone will not be enough to fully meet the financial or medical needs of the men and women who rushed into harm’s way on Sept. 11, or were innocent victims of the attacks.
Congress must finally pass our bill…which would provide long-term health care and compensation for all those who are sick because of the terrorist attacks on our city and nation.
The bill has already been approved by one House committee and is expected to be approved tomorrow by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health subcommittee. Says Hughes:
"Nearly nine years after the Sept. 11 attacks and the collapse of the World Trade Center, it is time for Congress to act and pass the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act so the heroes of 9/11 and all of those who have been made sick finally get the medical care and compensation they need."