Gardner, Gillibrand Announce Senate Passage of Bipartisan ‘Never Forget The Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act’
Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today stood with 9/11 first responders, survivors, their families, and Jon Stewart to announce Senate passage of the bipartisan Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act. The bill to make the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund permanent passed the Senate by a vote of 97 to 2. Earlier this month, the bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 402-12, and it will now go to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
NOTE: Before the Senate vote, Senator Gardner spoke on the Senate floor urging his colleagues to support the bill. Download his remarks here.
“On September 11th, 2001, first responders didn’t hesitate for a second when our nation needed them the most. Today Congress made good on our country’s promise to never forget the heroism, service, and sacrifices from 9/11,” said Senator Gardner. “Permanent reauthorization of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund is not just a New York, Washington, or Pennsylvania issue. It is an American issue. The heroes of 9/11 are living across the country, including in Colorado. While this bill will not stop 9/11 first responders from becoming ill, it gives them the support they’ve earned and desperately need. I look forward to the president quickly signing this bill into law.”
“This bill sends a powerful signal from our nation, from Congress, and from all the people we represent in all 50 states that we will never forget what our 9/11 heroes did for us,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This bill is for every single person who decided in that terrible moment – when we were attacked, when we were vulnerable, and we were scared – to do the unthinkable: to risk their life for total strangers and sacrifice their bodies for our country. It is for every person who spent days, weeks, and months on the pile, and has had to suffer physical and mental scars for years because of that heroic work. It is for every survivor who lived in a home or went to school downtown when the government told them the air was safe to breathe. The Senate promised that we would “never forget,” and today we finally lived up to that promise. We will never forget our 9/11 heroes and we will never stop helping them when they are need – and now, once and for all, they can finally exhale and go home to be with their families. This day is long overdue, and now I urge President Trump to immediately sign this bill into law.”
“This year will mark the 18th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack on our nation’s soil. As we remember those who died on September 11, 2001, we also must recognize those we continue to lose as the lasting effects of that day make themselves known. We have lost more federal, state and local law enforcement officers from 9/11-related illnesses over the past 17 years than we lost on September 11, 2001. 9/11 responders and survivors are still battling serious health crises resulting from exposure to the toxins at Ground Zero,” said William J. Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations, Inc. “This legislation honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation. It is our obligation and duty to remember these heroes and ensure that survivors who risked their lives to protect us continue to receive the compensation that they deserve.”
“The National Sheriffs’ Association commends Congress for permanently authorizing the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund. These brave men and women put their lives on the line and this is just a small way we can thank them for their service to this county,” said Jonathan Thompson, Executive Director and CEO, National Sheriffs’ Association.
“The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association has been a steadfast supporter of additional funding of the Victims Compensation Fund. Our 27,000 members in 65 federal agencies were either personally involved in the subsequent 9/11 investigations or know somebody who was,” said Nathan Catura, National President, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA). “These first responders unselfishly reported to the still smoldering sites searching for victims and evidence. The ill-conceived assurances that exposure to the pulverized detritus was not toxic have been drastically proven wrong. Many of these brave heroes are now suffering from cancers and other assorted maladies,” explained Catura. “It is the responsibility of the United States government to ensure that these victims and their families are properly taken care of. I applaud the Senators and Representatives that endorsed and supported the passage of the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Louis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Act. This is much-needed legislation and the right thing to do.”
“Eighteen years after the September 11 attacks, the day and its aftermath still haunt us. We remember those who were lost that day, as well as those first responders who courageously came to Ground Zero and stayed for days, weeks and months to look for survivors and assist with cleanup and recovery. Many of them were volunteers from across the country. These brave public servants inhaled a toxic cocktail of caustic chemicals, pulverized drywall, and powdered cement while working at the scene as their heroic actions put them at risk of lifelong health consequences… Unless Congress acts, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) that helps 9/11 survivors and responders will run out of funds and its authorization will expire, before many have been able to apply. We urge you to support H.R. 1327, the “Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act,” said Scott Frey, Director of Federal Government Affairs, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
"Over the past decade, a number of current and former Special Agents have died from 9/11-linked cancers," said Ed Burke, President, Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. "It has been a long road to get us to this day, but we are grateful for the collaborative efforts of Sen Gillibrand and others to make sure that our 9/11 first responders will continue to be provided for."
On February 15, 2019, the Special Master of September 11th Victim Compensation Fund announced that due to a funding shortfall, injured and ill 9/11 responders and survivors will receive cuts to the awards that they were expecting of 50% for pending claims and 70% for future claims.
In the years since September 11, 2001, many 9/11 responders and survivors have become ill and many have lost their lives from exposure to a toxic cocktail of burning chemicals, pulverized drywall and powdered cement that was present at Ground Zero, the Shanksville Crash Site, and the Pentagon. After years of urging Congress to act, in 2010 and again in 2015, legislation was passed to provide medical monitoring and treatment through the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) and compensation through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). Now, after waiting years for compensation that they need and deserve, thousands are facing dramatically reduced awards. Unless Congress acts, the VCF will close next year as thousands more 9/11 responders and survivors are expected to be diagnosed with 9/11 cancers.
This legislation is designed to ensure that the VCF is fully funded and will remain open for those that will become ill in the future.
Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.
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