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Pennsylvania Members of Congress Must Come to the Rescue of Ground Zero Workers – Time to “Put Up or Shut Up”

We applaud the editorial writers of the NY Daily News who, recently called upon law makers from Pennsylvania to join those in New York and New Jersey in support of the extension of the 9/11 James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act. 

Years after the fires at Ground Zero stopped smoldering, thousands of rescue and recovery workers who breathed in the toxic dust have been diagnosed with disabling respiratory illnesses.  Hundreds more have been diagnosed with life-threatening  cancers. 

It wasn’t until January, 2011 that the Zadroga 9/11 Act became law.  It provides medical care and financial support for first responders and local residents whose only mistake was believing the EPA’s infamous announcement, made just a few days after the attacks, that “the air is safe”. When the Act was passed into law, most people believed that the money set aside by Congress, $2.4 billion for health care and $2.77 billion for compensation, would suffice.  However, doctors have now linked over 60 cancers to the toxic dust.  As a result, the money ear-marked by Congress for medical treatment and compensation is clearly no longer sufficient.  Moreover, since the program runs out of funding at the end of 2016, it must be renewed and refunded or thousands of the 30,000 patients currently receiving life-sustaining medical treatment and medication through the WTC Health Program will be without.  No doubt, thousands more heroes will suffer needlessly and die prematurely if they can’t afford treatment and medication, including chemotherapy.  This would be a moral stain on our country. 

Every member of the House and Senate from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut has agreed to support a Bill that would extend the Zadroga Act .  I was down in Washington a few weeks ago, lobbying Congressional leaders along with fire fighters, police officers and construction workers.  One of the more distasteful comments that we heard was “haven’t New Yorkers received enough already”?!  Alas, it is our job to remind all politicians that 9/11 wasn’t an attack just on New York.  It was an attack on America and the suffering of first responders is national.

For instance, there are 1,044 Pennsylvanians registered in the WTC Health Program.

Scott Chernoff, a retired NYPD cop now living in Bethlehem, Pa., worked in the rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero.  He suffers from reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and sleep apnea. His treatment is covered by the Zadroga fund.

Laura DiPasqua-Grappy of Erie, Pa. , spent five weeks at Ground Zero volunteering with the American Red Cross. She has since been diagnosed with aerodigestive cancer and has undergone five wrenching surgeries. She still has a tumor on her epiglottis. All of her costly treatment is paid for by the Zadroga fund.

Sadly, just two of Pennsylvania’s federal law makers have publically voiced their support for the extension of the Zadroga Act:  Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. 

Barasch McGarry is supporting grass roots efforts to remind law makers that WTCHP participants are living (and voting) in all 50 states.  Despite nearly every politician’s public pronouncement that “we support first responders”, their voting records don’t always match what they say in their speeches.   It is time to let their constituents know the truth.  Either you’re with us or against us!

In Pennsylvania, that includes DiPasqua-Grappy’s congressman, Mike Kelly, and Chernoff’s, Charles Dent.  In the Senate, Pat Toomey should join fellow Republicans from places with far fewer victims, like Alaska (Sen. Lisa Murkowski), Nevada (Rep. Joe Heck) and Arkansas (Sen. Tom Cotton).

Please join the fight.  Make sure that your elected officials support the extension of the Zadroga Act.  Make sure that they aren’t just giving lip service to this, but that they are committed to voting for it.

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