October 12, 2018 marked a tremendous milestone in the long, hard-fought effort to compensate victims of 9/11 toxins exposure with the introduction of the Never Forget the Heroes Act to extend the 9/11 VCF deadline.
Democrat and Republican legislators in both the House and Senate have introduced a new bill “Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act” (S. 3591/ H.R. 7062), which would permanently authorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (“VCF”). Since being introduced less than a month ago, the Never Forget the Heroes Act has accumulated great support, reaching 100 bipartisan co-sponsors.
As it stands, the VCF is due to expire December 18, 2020. This means all claims must be submitted in full by that date. In other words, if someone were to be diagnosed with a 9/11-related cancer, mesothelioma for example, on December 19, 2020, then they would not be eligible for compensation. Legislators have introduced legislation to prevent that outcome.
In the past four years, the 9/11 cancer rate has risen 3800%. There are now 10,000 certifications of 9/11 cancer among World Trade Center Health Program members. Worse, while the Congressional Budget Office estimates 500,000 people were exposed to 9/11 toxins, less than 20% have enrolled in the Health Program.
The Health Program has minimum latency periods for certifying cancer, but not maximum latency periods. In other words, individuals must have been diagnosed after certain dates (depending on the cancer), in order to be eligible for compensation; there is no end-date for cancer eligibility. Yet, there is currently an end-date for 9/11 compensation. Therein lies the issue to be solved by the pending legislation.
Additionally, the VCF Special Master recently announced for the first time that there may be a shortfall in compensation for victims of 9/11 toxins exposure, and published a Notice of Inquiry in the Federal Register regarding potential cuts to VCF awards. The pending legislation would prevent this outcome as well.
The fact that the Never Forget the Heroes Act has reached the 100 co-sponsor level in such a short amount of time shows the widespread impact of 9/11 toxins exposure. There are victims of 9/11 toxins exposure in every state, and in 434 out of 435 Congressional districts. The support for this bill is correspondingly diverse, as legislators from around the country have sponsored the Act. These legislators understand the importance of the VCF, and the need to compensate victims of 9/11 toxins exposure who were told the air is safe to breathe.
The bipartisan Senate version of Never Forget the Heroes is sponsored by Senators Gillibrand (D-NY), Gardner (R-CO), Schumer (D-NY), Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Duckworth (D-IL), Klobuchar (D-MN), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Murphy (D-CT), Murray (D-WA), Shaheen (D-NH), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Van Hollen (D-MD), Merkley (D-OR)
The bipartisan House version of Never Forget the Heroes is sponsored by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Nadler (D-NY), King (R-NY), Zeldin (R-NY), Suozzi (D-NY), Rice (D-NY), Meeks (D-NY), Meng (D-NY), Velázquez (D-NY), Jeffries (D-NY), Clarke (D-NY), Donovan (R-NY), Espaillat (D-NY), Crowley (D-NY), Serrano (D-NY), Engel (D-NY), Lowey (D-NY), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Faso (R-NY), Tonko (D-NY), Stefanik (R-NY), Tenney (R-NY), Reed (R-NY), Katko (R-NY), Higgins (D-NY), Norcross (D-NJ), LoBiondo (R-NJ), MacArthur (R-NJ), Smith (R-NJ), Gottheimer (D-NJ), Pallone (D-NJ), Lance (R-NJ), Sires (D-NJ), Pascrell (D-NJ), Payne (D-NJ), Coleman (D-NJ), Larson (D-CT), DeLauro (D-CT), Esty (D-CT), Himes (D-CT), Courtney (D-CT), Boyle (D-PA), Sinema (D-AZ), Napolitano (D-CA), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Cicilline (D-RI), Poe (R-TX), Comstock (R-VA), Price (D-NC), Bass (D- CA), Wilson (D-FL), Jackson Lee (D-TX), Grijalva (D-AZ), Norton (D-DC), Reichert (R-WA), Knight (R-CA), Carson (D-IN), Garamendi (D-CA), Cárdenas (D-CA), González-Colón (R-PR), Raskin (D-MD), Beyer (D-VA), Schakowsky (D-IL), Adams (D-NC), Huffman (D-CA), Matsui (D-CA), Butterfield (D-NC), Khanna (D-CA), Lowenthal (D-CA), Takano (D-CA), Lieu (D-CA), Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Foster (D-IL), Cohen (D-TN), Crist (D-FL), Young (R-AL), Eshoo (D-CA), Gomez (D-CA), Clay (D-MO), Dingell (D-MI), Delaney (D-MD), DelBene (D-WA), Gallego (D-AZ), Cummings (D-MD)
The Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act has developed a helpful tool to identify supporters of the Never Forget the Heroes Act. Click here to find out if your Representatives and Senators support extending the 9/11 VCF deadline.
Unfortunately, many legislators (some from close to home) have failed to sponsor the Act. We hope that changes in the coming months.