Word Trade Center Heroes Wait, As Senate Takes its Time with Zadroga Bill

Ground Zero rescue and recovery workers who have been denied a portion of a settlement negotiated in the <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/world_trade_center_emergency_workers">World Trade Center toxic dust litigation are hoping that the US Senate will pass a bill that has the potential to greatly improve their lives. The <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/world_trade_center_emergency_workers">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 the Zadroga bill lacks the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster.

According to The New York Daily News, New York’s Senators, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with other backers of the Zadroga bill, are intensely lobbying about a dozen Republican Senators before a key vote is held, possibly sometime over the weekend.

For their part, Republicans say they object to the way the Zadroga bill is funded. The existing bill raises money by cracking down on companies that “treaty-shop,” which means they funnel income through firms located in other countries that have treaties setting lower US tax rates, the Daily News said. Schumer and Gillibrand have now offered a variety of alternative funding arrangements that they hope will garner the needed GOP support.

“We believe we are only one vote away in the Senate from delivering the brave men and women who served in the aftermath of 9/11 the medical care they desperately need and deserve,” the Senators wrote to their Republican colleagues in a letter obtained by the Daily News.

“We are willing to replace the existing offset with any combination in the attached menu as an alternative,” they wrote.

Meanwhile, around 325 World Trade Center heroes who have been barred from sharing in the toxic dust settlement announced last week have pinned all of their hopes on the Zadroga bill. Their claims have already been rejected by the federal judge overseeing the case, because they purportedly waited too long to file their lawsuits.

Those 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.

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 told WWATV3.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Dambakly’s lawyer, Matthew McCauley, of the law firm of Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, said the Zadroga bill may the only chance for Dambakly and others like him to get compensation because “they’re seeing the court dismiss every claim they put in.” Parker Waichman Alonso LLP represents a dozen other World Trade Center Workers who are in the same position as Dambakly.

If the Zadroga bill is not passed during the current lame duck session of Congress, it’s feared the upcoming Republican majority in the House will not approve the bill.

“The people that have to pass this bill, they didn’t work there that day,” Dambakly told WWAYTV3. “They weren’t there to help clean up. They didn’t put in the time to make everything ok for us to live again.”

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