Lawmakers, Advocates Call on Bush for 9/11 Health Funds


E.B. Solomont | | Tuesday, January 29, 2008

NEW YORK -- New York lawmakers and health advocates called on President Bush Sunday to increase federal funds to programs that monitor and treat ailing ground zero rescue and recovery workers.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler appealed to Mr. Bush a day before his State of the Union address, scheduled for this evening. In addition to funds for health care programs, the legislators said the president should restart a proposed national "processing center," scrapped last month, that would have consolidated funding of health programs for those who responded to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

"I am outraged that they suddenly canceled a request for proposals to provide medical care to the thousands of brave Americans who came to ground zero from all across the country after the collapse of the World Trade Center," Mr. Nadler said at a news conference. "This is unacceptable, and an extension of this government's continued malfeasance since 9/11."

For six years, health issues stemming from the attacks have competed with concerns about economic development at ground zero. Local elected officials, including Mr. Nadler, Ms. Maloney, Rep. Vito Fossella, and senators Clinton and Schumer, have criticized the federal response as insufficient.

"The president will probably mention 9/11 on Monday, but he's unlikely to announce any aid for the heroes who rushed to New York from all around the country to save the lives of others," Ms. Maloney said yesterday.

Last year, Mr. Bush requested $25 million for September 11-related health care in his fiscal year 2008 budget. Congress appropriated $50 million in the Iraq emergency supplemental bill and another $108 million in a fiscal year 2008 omnibus bill.

In August, New York City health officials published two studies linking rescue and recovery work at the World Trade Center site to asthma and post-traumatic stress disorder. One in eight rescue workers enrolled in the World Trade Center health registry suffered from PTSD as a result of working at the site of the terrorist attacks, researchers concluded. In another study, researchers found that some 3.6% of rescue and recovery workers reported developing asthma after working at the site.

At yesterday's news conference, convened near the World Trade Center site, lawmakers appeared with people suffering from September 11-related illnesses. "Sit down and meet with myself or some of the responders when we're there tomorrow," a paramedic who said he suffers from PTSD and asthma, Marvin Bethea, said, referring to Mr. Bush.

"They are living proof of the need for continuing funding for all first responders who labored at the World Trade Center site for months," the president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association of New York City, John McDonnell, said.

In September, Ms. Maloney and Messrs. Nadler and Fossella introduced the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which would provide comprehensive monitoring and treatment to individuals exposed to toxins at ground zero. It also would reopen the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.

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