President Signs World Trade Center Responder Health Bill

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is finally law, paving the way for thousands of sickened World Trade Center responders to get the health care and compensation they deserve. According to an earlier New York Times report, sick Ground Zero workers will be able to start making <"">Zadroga bill claims this summer.

The Zadroga Act will provide health care and compensation to responders and volunteers sickened by toxic dust at Ground Zero in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Passed by the US House of Representatives in the fall, the Zadroga bill languished in the US Senate, a victim of politics. At times, it seemed unlikely it would ever pass. But late last month, the legislation was finally pushed through the Senate without a single “No” vote, after its Republican opponents got concessions that reduced the bill’s costs.

Originally, the Zadroga bill called for a 10-year, $7.4 billion treatment and compensation package. The new scaled-back version provides 5 years at $4.2 billion. It also reopens the 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund to the responders, but caps lawyers fees to 10-percent. Ailing responders also won’t be able to double-dip on payouts from the 9/11 health settlement approved earlier this year.

According to an earlier Wall Street Journal report, decisions on administering and allocating the Zadroga bill compensation fund will be made by a special master, to be appointed by President Barack Obama. For the first time, those who have suffered psychological aftereffects from the attacks but no physical symptoms will be eligible for compensation.

President Obama signed the Zadroga Act during his Hawaiian vacation, with very little fanfare.

“We will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by the firefighters, police officers and first responders who risked their lives to save others,” President Obama said in a statement announcing the Zadroga Act’s signing. “I believe this is a critical step for those who continue to bear the physical scars of those attacks.”

According to the New York Daily News, proponents of the Zadroga Act praised its signing. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), one of the main House sponsors of the bill with Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan) and Peter King (R-L.I.), called the signing “a wonderful victory for 9/11 responders and survivors who have been waiting for help for nine long years.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement, “I am encouraged that our elected representatives in Washington came together and stood by those who were there for America in its hour of greatest need.”

The passage of the Zadroga Act is especially important to the 325 Ground Zero responders who were left out of the recently approved World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement. The national law firm of <"">Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, which represents 13 of those forgotten heroes, is currently appealing the refusal of the United States District Court to enlarge the group of claimants to include those responders.

“While we are happy to see that this Act will provide help to our clients, we remain vigilant in our efforts to make those first responders that were excluded from the WTC litigation settlement eligible. Parker Waichman Alonso’s appeal on this issue before the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will continue and we expect it to be argued in the coming months,” Matthew J. McCauley, an attorney with Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, said in statement praising the bill’s passage. “While we know that no Act or Bill can erase the damage that has been done, we are hopeful that it will assist with closure for those injured and their families and bring a little more joy at this time of the year.”

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