Congress to Take Up WTC Health Bill Again

In the days surrounding the anniversary of the tragic World Trade Center (WTC) attacks, the House is, again, looking into a bill that would provide about $7.4 billion to sickened <"">WTC rescue and recovery workers, said the Associated Press (AP), citing New York lawmakers. Similar measures are pending in the Senate, noted the AP.

According to US Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, democrats from the House will present the bill when Congress returns from its summer break next week, noted the AP. If passed, the bill will allow Rescue and Recovery workers sickened after their work at the WTC site, to receive free health care and compensation, said the AP. The bill did not receive the required two-thirds majority in July in a 255-to-159 vote.

According to the AP, the vote failed this summer due to party line issues. An argument between Peter King (Republican) and Anthony Weiner (Democrat), both Congressmen from New York, during the floor debate prior to the vote is being blamed, said the AP. “The gentleman is providing cover for his colleagues rather than doing the right thing,” yelled Weiner, quoted the AP. “Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans rather than doing the right thing on behalf of heroes. It’s a shame, a shame,” Weiner added. King, who backs the bill, said Democrats created a “charade,” wrote the AP.

It was a decision, taken up by Democrats, to adopt the 2/3rds majority rule that sparked the event, explained the AP; the procedure would, in effect, block possible amendments. According to Maloney and Nadler, a simple majority is all that is now needed, said the AP.

Democrats were “petrified,” said King, to vote on amendments, specifically one to stop assistance to illegal immigrant rescue and recovery Workers, said the AP. The comment spurred anger with Democrats who accused Republicans, especially King, of not supporting the bill, said the AP.

The legislation is named after James Zadroga, a police detective who, say supporters, died as a result of respiratory disease developed due to his work at Ground Zero; however, the NY City medical examiner maintains the lung disease was due to prescription drug abuse, wrote the AP. Zadroga was 34. There are challenges in proving some illnesses because of a dearth of peer-reviewed information linking some diagnoses to Ground Zero toxins, said the Post. Little is known about the large mix of carcinogens and other toxins at the site.

Many feel the rescue and recovery workers are being slighted, with some of the seriously ill workers receiving significantly less in a settlement that been called “unfair and illogical,” quoted the New York Post previously. For instance, said the Post, one worker, diagnosed with asthma, could receive about 30 times more in financial compensation versus another worker dying of cancer.

Also, secret negotiations seem to be excluding some rescue and recovery workers over a technicality under which some who would otherwise be qualified to take part in the ongoing settlement process are being excluded based on an arbitrary date not announced until two months after it had expired. The April 12 claimant eligibility cut-off date was announced on June 10, 2010, exempting rescue and recovery workers who filed cases from April 27 through June 10 as negotiations for the cut-off were ongoing without their knowledge, but with the involvement of some key groups such as the City of New York, the settlement steering committee, and a number of defendants. Although there was knowledge that those who worked at the WTC site were filing claims, neither they nor any involved parties on the plaintiff side were made aware that an arbitrary cut-off date was in the works.

Recently, the law firm of <"">Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, which represents 12 excluded cases, filed a motion to have that deadline extended. “Parker Waichman Alonso’s number one goal is to ensure all injured World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers be given the option to be included in this settlement agreement,” Matthew McCauley, an attorney with the firm, said recently. “These victims should not be excluded based on an arbitrary date when they present with injuries directly attributable to their work at the World Trade Center.”

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