9/11 First Responder Compensation Law Expires

Oct 2, 2015

An activist holds a sign in support of 9/11 responders during a news conference, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, in New York. Lawmakers called on Congress to prevent expiration of the James Zadroga Sept. 11 Health and Compensation Act.
Credit (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health Compensation Act, a law that provides medical monitoring and treatment for Sept. 11 first responders, expired midnight Thursday because Congress didn't act.

For now, first responders who rushed to the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks and now suffer from illnesses like pulmonary disease and cancers will still be able to get their health care. But federal officials who administer the program say it will face challenges by February and will have to start shutting down by next summer.

John Feal lost half of his left foot while helping remove debris from Ground Zero. Feal has been to Washington 16 times this year to lobby Congress for permanent extension of the Zadroga Act, and he’ll be back in Washington next week.

“While I’m disappointed and frustrated and I feel so bad for a fragile fraternity and community of 9/11 heroes who have uncertainty about their future, we were not surprised," said Feal. "But we were prepared and I’m confident, so confident that I would bet my one kidney, that we’ll get this bill extended by the end of the year.”

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D- Conn.) said he regrets that Feal and others will have to make more trips to Washington.

“They should be accorded this funding for their medical care, without the need for their coming to Washington," Blumenthal said. "And we owe them that much and so much more for their courage and strength.”

The Sept. 11 program is one of several that expired at midnight Thursday. While Congress moved to pass legislation to keep government agencies open, there are some programs that depend on further action to operate long term.

Blumenthal said that while the Zadroga Act had support in the Senate, a small fraction of Republicans in the House of Representatives were against any new spending measures.

Blumenthal is calling on incoming House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R- Calif.) to make the permanent extension of the Zadroga Act his first priority.