New York, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today released the following statement to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001:
“Seventeen years ago, as the world witnessed a heinous act of barbaric terrorism, we also saw the best of our nation as thousands of firefighters, police officers, federal and local law enforcement officers, medical workers, construction workers, and other heroes selflessly rushed to Ground Zero to answer the call of duty. 2,977 souls lost their lives that horrific day while thousands more stayed on the pile day after day and month after month, first to recover remains, and then to rebuild.
“On the seventeenth commemoration of the attack on September 11, 2001, we must all recognize the devastating fact that the death toll continues to rise due to 9/11 related illnesses obtained from the toxins at Ground Zero. As predicted, the scourge of cancer is ruining the lives of first responders, some of whom have been fighting this disease for years, and others who are newly diagnosed every year. The moral obligation of Congress to stand by every one of these heroes who stood up for this nation continues.
“Twice, Congress has come together to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Bill, the latest in 2015 to make the healthcare program for 9/11 first responders permanent. As we near the expiration of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund in 2020, our job is not done. It would be unconscionable for Congress to once again put cops, firefighters and other first responders through the agony and uncertainty of waiting until the last minute of a deadline to extend this essential and well-managed program. Along with my colleagues in the New York Congressional delegation, I am hopeful we can work across the aisle to do the right thing and get this done now.”
According to scientists, many cancers can lie dormant for more than 20 years before turning deadly. The number of cancer certifications by the World Trade Center Health Program reached over 10,000 cases in 2018 – more than double the 4,781 certifications just three years ago in 2015. As we reach the 20 year milestone and these latent diseases continue to manifest, new claims will continue to rise as we reach the expiration of the current Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) in 2020. Already, the VCF has approved over 17,000 claims with a mean dollar value of $223,000 for personal injury claims and $717,000 for deceased individuals.