Guest Essay: As Bipartisan Legislation Helps ‘Burning Pit’ Veterans, 9/11 Survivors Need the Same | Voice

Last week, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to advance the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Act of 2022 honoring our PACT. The bipartisan legislation by Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), which has moved quickly since its introduction shortly before Memorial Day, seeks to provide medical care to 3,500,000 veterans exposed to toxins from military “hotbeds”, expanding research and resources for these veterans by increasing the VA’s claims-handling capacity, strengthening its workforce, and investing in health care facilities. VA health.

Named in honor of Heath Robinson, a soldier who was deployed to Kosovo and Iraq and died in 2020 from exposure to toxic fumes following his military service, the bill would establish 31 new VA health care facilities in 19 states. It would also add 23 conditions related to burns and toxic exposure to the VA’s list of presumptions, while providing every veteran with toxic exposure screening at VA medical appointments.

The continuing dangers of military “hot spots,” areas where trash and garbage were incinerated during U.S. military operations around the world, took center stage during the inaugural State of the Union address. of President Joe Biden on March 1. It’s a subject close to President Biden’s heart – he suspects the death of his son Beau Biden, an army veteran who developed brain cancer, was linked to his exposure to toxic chemicals during his service.

Unfortunately, New Yorkers know all too well the damage toxic fumes can cause. More than 5,000 9/11 survivors and first responders have died from toxic exposure since the terror attacks, according to CDC statistics, and 68 types of cancer, some with a latency period of 20 years, have been identified. The Zadroga Act gave the 9/11 community vital access to free medical care and preventative health screenings for their WTC-related cancers and other illnesses, as well as compensation.

My client, NYPD Detective James Zadroga, for whom the act is named, spent over 450 hours at Ground Zero and later developed Black Lung Disease. An autopsy of Detective Zadroga found ground glass, asbestos, chromium, lead, benzene and other carcinogens in his lung tissue. It was an honor to fight for this legislation on behalf of the 9/11 community, of which our firm represents more than 30,000 members. The bill was passed by President Obama in 2010, and in 2019 eligibility for the program was extended to 2090 by President Trump.

While about 80% of 9/11 first responders signed up for the health and compensation fund, only about 12% of the roughly 400,000 non-first responders – critical workers, residents or students in the area – participate in the program. , which is also open to first responders to the attack on the Pentagon.

Memorial Day, May 30, marked the 20th anniversary of the end of the cleanup at Ground Zero. While we pause to remember and honor our veterans on this dark day, we believe it’s vital that everyone who helped America recover from the tragedy of 9/11 be told that they too have the right to receive the help they so desperately need. .

It’s not just our brave first responders, but the transit workers, utility workers, waitresses, secretaries, retail workers, and everyone else who got New York back on its feet and on its feet. are moved again.

The United States Senate should be applauded for making health services more readily available to our veterans, but we must also continue to educate and inform members of the 9/11 community that it is imperative that they register. and use available health and compensation programs. for them. Spreading the word is the least we can do.

Michael Barasch is the attorney for more than 20,000 members of the 9/11 community and is the managing partner of Barasch McGarry.

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