LETTER: Reauthorize the Zadroga Act

To the Editor,

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act was passed by the U. S. Congress after a long hard struggle in 2010.  Its purpose was to provide health care and compensation to people whose health was harmed by the toxic dust and smoke from the World Trade Center collapse. That includes the brave responders who came to the rescue on 9/11, as well as people like me—residents, workers and students of Lower Manhattan (and western Brooklyn). We are called “survivors” in Zadroga-speak, and under Zadroga, the WTC Health Program monitors and treats us for 9/11 physical or mental health conditions at no out-of-pocket cost.

Here is why we are in this situation. Back in 2010, the only way this critical piece of legislation could pass was for it to be literally chopped in half—it went from being a 10-year bill to a 5-year bill. Now it’s 2015, and Zadroga needs to be reauthorized by the Congress, so that the 33,000 9/11 responders and survivors currently suffering with illnesses caused by 9/11 can continue to get their care from the WTC Health Program. The program has a Nationwide Provider Network so eligible people are getting WTC care all over the country.

I am cautiously optimistic that Zadroga will be reauthorized and that the WTC Health Program will be there for all those who need it now or in the future. But I know that passage is not yet secured. There may be attempts to water down the bill, like making it another 5-year bill, which is unacceptable. Zadroga needs to be in place for as long as responders and survivors are suffering from their exposure-related illnesses.

The biggest obstacle to passage is that many members of Congress see Zadroga as a “New York issue.” That is why it’s so important to point out to them that many people, responders who came from everywhere to work on the pile, and survivors who have moved to other states, or non-New Yorkers people who are sick now from being caught in the dust cloud, desperately need this program.

Here is how we can all help. Tell your friends and relatives from out of state to contact their Congressional representatives and press them to support the Zadroga Reauthorization Act as written. They can find out where their representative stands on the bill and get contact info by going to the Citizens for the Extension of the Zadroga Act website at www.renew911health.org.

Esther Regelson

(I am a patient who has benefited from the high quality care at the WTC Environmental Health Center at Bellevue (one of 3 NYC-based clinics treating survivors.)