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anne_mikolay_120The U.S. House Subcommittee on Health chaired by Congressman Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) has approved the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act (HR-847) which proposes lifetime health care benefits for 9/11 responders with illnesses related to Ground Zero. Amendments that would have required annual re-authorization of funding were defeated in favor of permanent funding. The legislation is pending action by the Senate.

The Zadroga Bill is named after Little Egg Harbor Township resident and retired NYPD detective James Zadroga, who died in 2006 from respiratory disease caused by his participation in rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero in 2001. Zadroga worked tirelessly for 450 hours at the site, and tragically, was the first NYPD responder whose death is attributed to exposure to Ground Zero toxic chemicals. According to Pallone, convincing members of Congress to support lifetime benefits for stricken 9/11 responders, like Detective Zadroga, has been difficult.

I don't understand that.

What's “difficult” about compassionately extending a much deserved hand to the heroes of 9/11? Sadly, the Zadroga Bill has become a financial rather than a humanitarian issue. Once again, the bottom line muddies the waters and suppresses what is right.

According to Congressman Pallone, the Zadroga Bill has encountered opposition because it allows for permanent funding for health care instead of an annual re-assessment/renewal of funding. The White House does not support mandatory funding and is in favor of yearly review of funding. With all due respect, President Obama, please put your money where your mouth is.

Isn't President Obama the proponent of “stability and security?” Isn't he the one who, in March, said “Well, the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care. Now is the time to deliver on health care.” The Zadroga Bill represents stability and security for the needy; it is health care for the citizens who willingly stepped up to the very dangerous plate on 9/11. It is time to deliver on health care for the 70,000 responders and 19,500 New York residents/workers affected by the toxins released at Ground Zero!

There should be no debate necessary on the Zadroga Bill. It is right and just to assist the Americans who, without hesitation, without consideration for their own personal peril, rushed to the aid of fellow Americans at the very center of our nation's most horrific tragedy. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens) was absolutely correct when she said: “We have a moral responsibility to care for those who lost their health because of the attacks on America.”

Kudos to Congressman Frank Pallone for recognizing this and standing up for the rights of these heroic Americans.