Congress must finally fulfill America's obligation to the forgotten victims of September 11th
New York Daily News
February 7, 2009
A new study by researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center confirms the terrible truth about the long-term damage suffered by many rescue and recovery workers who responded to the World Trade Center.
The serious ill effects caused by breathing the toxic cloud that draped The Pile are, to this day, persistent and chronic among thousands of brave men and women who pitched in heroically after the terror attack.
Tests on more than 3,160 cops, construction workers and others found that more than 24% showed abnormal lung function between 2004 and 2007, down only slightly from the 28% who exhibited reduced lung function in similar examinations from 2002 to 2004.
The findings reinforce a second truth: Congress must find the will and the wherewithal to provide health care, monitoring and compensation to all those who remain sickened by exposure to WTC dust.
As it happened, New York Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler, Pete King and Michael McMahon last week reintroduced legislation to do just that. The same bill died without action last fall, despite the welcome support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The measure would provide $10.9 billion over 10 years to address a health crisis that extends into every state and nearly every congressional district because so many Americans rushed to New York to give aid.
The bill would provide medical care for lung, gastrointestinal and other diseases caused by WTC exposure; track the health of patients over time, and, importantly, reopen the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund as a necessary alternative to litigation.
For more than seven years, Congress and the departed Bush administration refused to uphold America's obligation to the 9/11 brigade. Among the stumbling blocks is the wrongheaded notion that city taxpayers must shoulder a share of the expense.
Maloney and her colleagues have attempted to sell the legislation by including a provision that would require the city to foot a whopping $500 million of the costs. Mayor Bloomberg has rightly balked.
City Hall is already paying for a set of 9/11 health programs. And, lest anyone miss the point, New York's budget is so busted that the mayor has proposed raising taxes amid serious talk of laying off thousands of public workers.
Washington must accept its responsibility. The U.S. was attacked on 9/11; New York City just happened to be the primary target. The ill and injured went to the service of their country, and their country owes them.
We have been blessed that America has been spared a second major attack. But there is no doubt terrorists are out there plotting. Should, God forbid, they succeed, would-be responders should not have to worry about being abandoned by the government. Right now, that's the horrible lesson they can draw.