Another 9/11 rescue: Congress’ job is not done yet
In July, the Republican Senate, the Democratic House and President Trump nobly stood up for the financial needs of ailing heroes and victims of the World Trade Center attack. All three must show new resolve now to provide continuing health care to the ever-growing number of sickened responders.
Patriotic pledges during this 9/11 anniversary week mean nothing if the folks who sacrificed their well-being at Ground Zero are not cared for as they battle cancers and other deadly diseases.
While the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund is now permanent and fully funded, the sister World Trade Center Health Program was capped in 2015 at an additional 25,000 responders beyond the nearly 50,000 previously enrolled, an artificial ceiling that will be reached in about a year. Which means that the 25,001st post-2015 sick firefighter or iron worker who shows up will be turned away.
Well before then, Congress must remove the cap on the number of persons who can have their health monitored and treated. There are hopeful signs that lawmakers will do their duty.
The responders did their duty 18 years ago; their government told them the air was safe. And they are still suffering for it. A new study by a team including Dr. David Prezant, FDNY chief medical officer, just published by the American Medical Association, found significantly increased long-term risk of cardiovascular disease among FDNY members who reported to Ground Zero at the outset of the towers’ collapse, when the toxic air was the thickest and most poisonous.
Prezant himself was there on 9/11 and with his FDNY colleague Dr. Kerry Kelly early on predicted the airborne health disaster that will ultimately claim more lives than perished on that September morning.
They were not heeded for years as the WTC health crisis grew. Now that everyone knows the truth, Congress must act.