Ten years after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01, controversy surrounds a fund established to help first responders at the World Trade Center (WTC) with their medical bills. Some are getting help, and some aren’t.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, also known as the First Responders Bill, went into effect in July. It makes $1.5 billion in federal and New York City funds available to cover all costs for treating certain 9/11-related illnesses, and $2.7 billion in compensation for victims who suffered economic hardship due to the attacks. The Zadroga Fund was years in the making.
Illnesses eligible for coverage include:
- lung disease
- chronic cough syndrome
- sleep apnea
- digestive disorders
- post traumatic stress disorder, and
- substance abuse.
But cancers aren’t covered. The Centers for Disease Control, which is administering the fund, say there isn’t enough scientific evidence linking cancer in first responders to their exposure to toxic substances from the 9/11 attacks.
However, a new study in The Lancet medical journal supports a link between cancer and exposure to substances at the former site of the WTC.
The study tracked almost 10,000 firefighters and found that those exposed to substances at Ground Zero are 19% more likely to develop cancer than firefighters who were not exposed.
Ralph Geidel was retired from the New York City Fire Department, but returned to Ground Zero after the attacks to help search for his brother who was in the WTC at the time of the attacks.
Geidel has spent almost $100,000 on his medical treatment since 2003 when he was diagnosed with tongue and neck cancer.
The type of cancer Geidel has is normally seen in people ages 60-70. He was 44 when he was diagnosed, and he is neither a heavy drinker or smoker.
On the other hand, Chris Doran, a first responder and former New York City police officer has been helped by the Zadroga Act.
Doran suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and a sinus condition so severe that he’s had five operations for it.
He was paying $7,000 a year for medications and had to file for bankruptcy. Now all of Doran’s medical costs will be paid for by the government.
9/11 first responders like Geidel hope the First Responders Bill is amended so cancer treatment will also be paid for.
Other help is available for 9/11 first responders. The FealGood Foundation, a non-profit organization, spreads awareness and educates the public about the catastrophic health effects on 9/11 first responders, and also provides assistance to relieve these great heroes of the financial burdens placed on them over the last ten years.
As the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks arrives, let’s take a moment to remember the first responders, some of whom died, and others who are living with lasting effects to this day from their experiences.
Feel free to leave any thoughts in the comments below as we mark the 9/11 anniversary.