A June 2012 ruling by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) added 50 different types of cancer to the list of illnesses covered by the WTC Health Program. But many survivors of 9/11 were dismayed to learn this past September that $38 million of the money set aside for injured survivors may be slashed next year if Congress does not act to reduce our budget deficit.
Pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011, if Congress fails to produce a deficit reduction bill with at least $1.2 trillion in cuts, then Congress can raise the debt ceiling by that much, triggering across-the-board cuts, or sequestrations. Some programs — notably Social Security, Medicaid, civil and military employee pay, and veterans benefits — are exempt from the mandatory budget cuts.
Unfortunately, Congress failed to add the WTC Health Program and the reopened September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to the list of 150 programs exempt from the automatic budget cuts imposed by sequestration. As a result, the WTC Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund stand to lose $14 million and $28 million, respectively — putting at risk the implementation of the NIOSH decision including particular cancers among the illnesses covered.
Congress and the Office of Management and Budget should work together to ensure that those injured as a result of their service or continued residence in Lower Manhattan after the attacks continue to receive the health care they need and the financial assistance they deserve.