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FDNY commissioner calls for 9/11 health bill for NYC, Pa., Pentagon first responders

Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said the World Trade Center Health Program “is facing massive cuts in just a few years.”


FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.

Luiz C. Ribeiro

By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — The FDNY is just a few months away from a milestone it doesn’t want to mark — the moment when more of its members died of 9/11 illness than on the day of the terror attacks.

As the grim turning point approaches, Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh is lobbying for a new bill in Congress that will help continue to fund the World Trade Center Health Program, which she said is threatened by Washington legislators.

As of this week, 329 FDNY members, mostly retired firefighters, have died of some 9/11-related illness.

That’s 14 fewer than the 343 FDNY members who perished when the old World Trade Center was destroyed after passenger airliners flew into the twin towers nearly 22 years ago.

Within the next few months, the number of FDNY members who succumbed to 9/11 illness is expected to surpass the number who died during the attack.

In the last six months alone, 23 FDNY members have died of 9/11 illness, officials said.

“Nearly every week, the name of a firefighter who has died of a 9/11-related illness is shared throughout the entire Fire Department, a notification of respect and solemnity that has sadly become far too common,” Kavanagh wrote in letters to New Jersey and Pennsylvania members of Congress.

The letters ask the representatives to vote for the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding and Correction Act.

“Some weeks there are multiple deaths,” Kavanagh wrote. “The painful reality is that thousands of FDNY responders have developed at least one condition related to their service that day, and many are suffering from more.”

The federal World Trade Center Health Program has registered and monitored the health of more than 124,000 first responders and survivors who have come down with some form of 9/11 illness.

While Congress voted to continue the program until 2090, “a faction of lawmakers in Washington have repeatedly threatened the health program that protects those heroes that are still here,” Kavanagh wrote.

The program “is facing massive cuts in just a few years,” she added.

The 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding and Correction Act will close the funding shortfall in the health program and will allow the program to include first responders and survivors from the terror attacks at the Pentagon and the crash of United Flight 93 near Shanksville, Penn. who were previously excluded, lawmakers said.

The 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, which is linked to the health program, has given out an estimated $10.8 billion to more than 151,000 9/11 illness sufferers and their families to help pay for medical expenses and other needs.

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