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WTC Health ProgramZadroga ActVictim Compensation Fund

Labor Union Advocacy Made the 9/11 Fund Permanent

June 28, 2022 | Michael Barasch

With the 2011 signing of the Zadroga Act, the entire 9/11 community could access free health care and compensation for Ground Zero-related health conditions – thanks to the selfless collective action and community-based involvement of 9/11 first responders and survivors. 

By November 2018, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) had approved more than $4.5 billion in awards to 21,775 responders and survivors who had developed cancer or respiratory illness, as well as families who had lost someone to illness.

For many active-duty and retired union members, the 9/11 VCF and the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program offered invaluable protection for their health and financial security.

But as more and more responders and survivors were diagnosed with the 68 cancers and many respiratory illnesses resulting from Ground Zero exposure, the 9/11 VCF quickly became depleted.

In early 2019, VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya announced that the fund would need to reduce compensation awards by as much as 70%, just to remain in operation.

Immediately, labor unions, members, and advocates started contacting their members of Congress and traveling to Capitol Hill to support the full funding of the 9/11 VCF. 

Their stories – of union families whose financial security depended on the VCF – convinced majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate that the program should continue permanently. 

On July 29, 2019, President Trump signed the “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act” into law.

The act fully funded the 9/11 VCF and extended the program until 2092. Legislation to fully fund the WTC Health Program has been introduced by Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey.

Today, the WTC Health Program and the 9/11 VCF continue to help 9/11 responders and survivors who are diagnosed with cancers or respiratory illness.

The health program offers free medical care for 9/11-related illnesses at clinics across the United States. 

The victim fund offers tax-free awards for pain and suffering, lost earnings, and benefits for surviving spouses and family members.

But there are still tens of thousands of union first responders and survivors who have not yet registered with the VCF.

We have a responsibility to inform them about their right to access health care and compensation.

If you were in Lower Manhattan below Canal Street on 9/11 or during the eight following months, you are eligible to register – even if you are currently healthy.

If you were below Houston Street or in parts of western Brooklyn and are diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness, you are eligible to enroll in the WTC Health Program.

Barasch & McGarry, Lawyers for the 9/11 Community, which represents more than 30,000 members of the 9/11 community, has proudly advocated for union members for more than twenty-five years.

Visit or call 800-314-0683 today.

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