Obama signs 9/11 healthcare bill

Today, President Obama signed into law legislation authored by New York Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Peter King (R-NY) to address the health crisis caused by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, provides health care for those exposed to toxins released by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.  The bill also reopens the federal Victim Compensation Fund to provide economic relief to those harmed by the attacks.

The House passed the bill in September with a strong bipartisan majority.  On December 22, the Senate passed by voice vote an amended version of the bill that reduces the bill’s cost to $4.3 billion over five years.  The House approved the Senate’s changes shortly afterward by a vote of 206-60.

The bill’s passage represents a victory for ailing 9/11 first responders and survivors who have waited more than nine years for the federal government to approve a comprehensive plan to deal with the public health disaster caused by the attacks.

“At long last, the president’s signature has ended our nine-year struggle to address the 9/11 health crisis,” Maloney said.

The Zadroga Act is historic, but not unprecedented, legislation.  In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks, Congress passed the War Hazards Compensation Act of 1942, which provided health care and financial relief to civilians who helped recover the dead and salvage what remained of our Pacific fleet.

The act is named after James Zadroga, a New York City police  officer who died of a respiratory disease that has been attributed to his participation in rescue and recovery operations in the rubble of the World Trade Center following the September 11 attacks. Zadroga was the first NYPD officer whose death was attributed to exposure to his contact with toxic chemicals at the attack site.