Senate Could Vote on Zadroga World Trade Center Worker Compensation Bill Next Tuesday. Will Republicans Derail It?

The Zadroga bill, which would provide health care to those who worked in rescue and recovery efforts at <"">Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, could finally come up for a vote in the US Senate as early as next Tuesday. But sadly, there is no guarantee that the Zadroga bill will pass, and sickened World Trade Center workers and their allies are working feverishly to drum up more support for this important piece of legislation.

Since 2003, upwards of 10,000 firefighters, police officers, construction workers and emergency responders have filed lawsuits against 90 defendants over illnesses they say were caused by exposure to toxic dust at Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They allege that the defendants, including New York City, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and construction companies, failed to adequately supervise and protect them with safety equipment during rescue and clean-up efforts.

The Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act would provide long-term health care for those who became ill after working at Ground Zero, and re-create a victim compensation fund to make cash payments to sick workers or their survivors. The bill was approved by the US House of Representatives earlier this year. But it is still sitting in the Senate, reportedly one Republican vote shy of being approved. Fifty-nine Senators, including one Republican, Mark Kirk of Illinois, are on board. But other Republicans are balking, ostensibly because of way the bill is funded. While proponents of the bill have offered a number of alternative funding options, some Republicans in the Senate seem determined to scuttle the Zadroga bill.

Many World Trade Center emergency workers and their advocates are clearly disgusted that the US Senate has yet to pass the Zadroga bill. This includes other Republicans. According to, conservative Borough President James P. Molinaro, along with the borough’s elected Republican legislators and Brooklyn GOP state Sen. Martin Golden, slammed the lack of action on the Zadroga bill. Molinaro said that lawmakers were breaking the promise to “never forget,” and were “betraying the real heroes of 9/11.” Their message to everyone in Washington, D.C.: Get this done!

According to The New York Daily News, some Ground Zero responders are also expressing anger over what they say are Republican lies meant to stop Zadroga. Apparently, some in the GOP are circulating a document arguing that the workers have already been adequately compensated. Providing more aid would lead to fraud and abuse funded by “job-killing taxes,” the Republicans claimed. Apparently, Wyoming’s Mike Enzi, the top Republican on the Senate Health Committee, is behind the disinformation campaign, the Daily News said.

“The Republican Party is hiding behind baseless attacks. They need to man-up and grow a set of Abe Lincolns,” said John Feal, who lost half his foot while working at Ground Zero.

“I could not believe when I heard that you have asked the Republican caucus to again delay consideration of the 9/11 bill,” Feal wrote in a letter to Enzi.

The distortions in the document Republicans are circulating include a claim that the recently announced Ground Zero settlement covers ALL injured and sickened workers. But as the Daily News points out, it only covers around 10,000 people who filed suit. The settlement does nothing for the 30,000 people who received some form of treatment – let alone the estimated 90,000 people who rushed to the toxic scene.

And then there are the 325 Ground Zero workers who did file suit, but who will have no part in the settlement because of its arbitrary deadline. Attorney Matthew McCauley, whose firm Parker Waichman Alonso LLP represents more than a dozen such claimants, told The Wall Street Journal that the Zadroga bill may be the only chance such claimants have for compensation because “they’re seeing the court dismiss every claim they put in.”

These forgotten heroes include Richard Dambakly, who as a Verizon employee at the time, ran cable to set up temporary communication lines for police and firefighters. According to a report on WWAYTV3, Dambakly worked 12 to 16 hour days at Ground Zero, seven days a week, for four months. During his time there, he developed a severe cough. He later was diagnosed with B-Cell Lymphoma, a blood cancer that may have resulted from Dambakly’s exposure to toxic dust at Ground Zero. He’s being penalized because he missed the settlements deadline by a mere 14 days.

After five months of extensive chemo, Dambakly’s cancer is in remission. But he worries about what could happen to his five children if the disease returns.

“If I get cancer again, who’s gonna pay my bills? Who’s gonna pay the bills for chemo? Realize how expensive it is for chemotherapy? Hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Dambakly said.

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