In April, an editorial in USA Today joined a chorus of concerns that President Trump’s proposed budget could negatively impact healthcare for survivors of the 9/11 terror attacks. The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) provides critical health screenings and treatment to more than 83,000 people, including about 16,000 FDNY members. President Trump’s proposal would remove the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and place it under the control of the National Institutes for Health. The WTC Health Program would remain with the CDC but without the able assistance from NIOSH, which it has enjoyed since its inception under the Zadroga Act. This apparently pointless bureaucratic reshuffling has stunned many 9/11 advocates.
When they first heard of the proposed change, several U.S. senators, including Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sent a letter to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, seeking to prevent the change. Meanwhile, Rep. Peter King of New York’s 2nd Congressional District launched criticism from the other side of the aisle, objecting to a move that “serves no purpose,” and telling Newsday, “This program is working as perfectly as a program can be.” And Rep. Nita Lowey, who represents New Yorkers in the Hudson River Valley, is also concerned about a negative impact on the WTCHP. Her spokesman, Mike Burns, noted that she was among a bipartisan group of House members who wrote to Mulvaney to urge him to withdraw his proposal to separate the WTCHP from NIOSH, and she also raised the issue last month with Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at an HHS budget hearing.
As attorneys who have been fighting for 9/11 compensation since the beginning, Barasch & McGarry believe the federal government has a solemn obligation to provide quality healthcare to survivors of the attacks. We see no reason to restructure a program that seems to be operating efficiently for the survivors who rely on it, especially when the president hasn’t articulated any rationale for the proposal. Was this budget proposal ever a seriously considered reform, or simply a gambit in the larger budget process? Time will tell.
For a free consultation with a knowledgeable attorney who can help you obtain the 9/11 benefits you deserve, please contact us online or call Barasch & McGarry at [ln::phone].