Sick Ground Zero Workers From Around the Country Hope for Passage of Zadroga Bill

Hundreds of <"">World Trade Center heroes have been denied a chance to take part in the $625 million Settlement to cover the health claims of sick Ground Zero responders because of an arbitrary deadline set by the judge overseeing the World Trade Center toxic dust litigation. They and thousands of others who came from around the country to aid New York after the 9/11 terrorist attacks are now hoping that Republicans in the US Senate will finally allow the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to become law, but time is running out.

Arthur Noonan and Stanley Salata, two Chicago firefighters, are among the 325 responders left out of the Word Trade Center Settlement. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Noonan contracted leukemia in 2003, while Salata was diagnosed with respiratory problems in 2004. While Noonan retired after his leukemia diagnosis, Salata is still with the fire department.

Noonan told the Chicago Sun-Times that he can still remember the sights and smells from the time he stood in a bucket line to remove debris from Ground Zero.

“It was a very sweet smell you will never forget,” he said. “There was a grayish, thick dust — in some places six-inches deep and others just a dusting.”

While he and the other responders were given respirators, he told the Sun-Times they quickly became clogged with the toxic dust. After a while, the firefighters stopped using them.

According to their attorney, Matthew J McCauley, the judge overseeing the World Trade Center Settlement decided Noonan and Salata filed their claims two weeks too late. McCauley’s law firm, <"">Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, represents a total of 13 plaintiffs who are being denied a part in the settlement because of that deadline.

“It’s depressing and upsetting,” McCauley, himself a retired New York City police officer, told the Sun-Times.

The refusal of the United States District Court to enlarge the group of claimants to include first-responders like Noonan and Salata is being appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. McCaluley and his firm, Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, are requesting an expedited decision before all the monies in the settlement are disbursed and there’s nothing left for this forgotten group of heroes.

McCauley’s clients and others like them are also hoping the Zadroga bill will finally become law. The bill would provide permanent, long-term health care for those World Trade Center responders who became ill because of exposure to toxic dust at Ground Zero, and it would re-create a victims’ compensation fund to make cash payments to sick workers or their survivors. The Zadroga bill was approved in the House of Representatives this past fall, but still needed to make it through the Senate.

Sadly, Senate Republicans have successfully blocked debate on the Zadroga bill, preventing a vote on the bill. The blockage of the Zadroga bill was part of a GOP Senate strategy to stop any legislation – no matter how important – from passing until the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy were extended. Republicans have also opposed the bill’s plan to raise funds by closing tax loopholes on foreign companies that funnel profits through third parties, which they see as a tax. The bill’s sponsors, however, have offered at least five alternative funding mechanisms in an attempt to get the legislation passed.

Over the weekend, it was reported that, now that the tax cuts have been extended and some changes have been made to the bill, some Senate Republicans appeared willing to allow the Zadroga bill to finally come up for a vote. But with the clock is ticking on Congress’ lame duck session, and time is quickly running out. Advocates for our 9/11 heroes are now asking voters in every state to contact their Senators – regardless of their party affiliation – and insist that the Zadroga bill be voted on before the session ends.

Information on how to contact your Senator is available at the US Senate website.

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