World Trade Center Worker Advocates Optimistic Zadroga Compensation Bill will Clear Key Vote this Week

Nearly a decade after the <"">World Trade Center terrorist attacks, the US Senate might finally begin debate on the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act this week. That is, if Republicans in the Senate decide not to filibuster the bill.

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, and 60 votes are required there for debate on the bill to begin.

According to a report on CBS News, that vote is expected Wednesday. Supporters of the Zadroga bill now say they are confident they will get two Republican votes and the support of all Senate Democrats.

“We’re doing everything we can. We’re not there yet, but we’re hopefully we can get there, which means 60 votes and then the bill will pass and sign into law,” Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) told WCBS 880 over the weekend.

“The people who rushed to the towers at 9/11 are the same as our veterans. They in a time of war—we were attacked—they rushed to war just like our veterans do—God bless them. And when they get ill, the federal government should be there, too,” Schumer said.

The Zadroga bill is especially vital for more than 325 Ground Zero rescue and recovery workers who were left out of a massive lawsuit settlement approved last month. They are being denied a portion of that settlement because they missed an arbitrary deadline – a deadline most of the claimants were not aware of until it passed – established by the federal judge overseeing the settlement.

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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