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Lawmakers Seek Benefits for Disabled 9/11 Paramedics

NEW YORK -- New York congressional lawmakers are again banging the drum so some disabled private-hospital paramedics who responded to the World Trade Center attacks can receive federal benefits.

GOP Reps. Vito Fossella and Peter King and Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Anthony Weiner and Jerrold Nadler wrote a letter to Attorney General Robert Mukasey, urging him to grant the paramedics benefits under the Public Safety Officer's Benefits program.

The five paramedics are permanently disabled as a direct result of their work on 9/11, the lawmakers said, and submitted applications for benefits more than a year ago.

"These heroes put their own safety and lives on the line to save others on 9/11," said Fossella (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn). "There is no reason that their cases should remain in limbo more than a year after they submitted applications."

The lawmakers initially wrote to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez about the issue but saw no action, despite their continued lobbying and a pledge from Gonzalez that his office would look into the matter.

During that time, however, the Justice Department posthumously awarded a Public Safety Officer's Benefits program survivor death benefit to the family of a private hospital paramedic who died responding to the attacks, the lawmakers said. It is also believed that at least two other paramedics who lost their lives on 9/11 were posthumously awarded the benefits, they said.

Additionally, the state of New York enacted a law last year granting private hospital paramedics the same benefits as municipal first responders.

"These unsung heroes should have their cases resolved without delay," Fossella said.

"These brave first responders put themselves in terrible danger so that they might save the lives of others," Nadler (D-Manhattan) said. "To withhold benefits from the heroes of 9/11 is a shameful slap in the face."

Tom Wrobleski may be reached at wrobleski@siadvance.com Read his polit.bureau blog at http://www.silive.com/newslogs/politics/.

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