New York, NY (PRWEB) July 27, 2011
Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, a national law firm representing many 9/11 first responders sickened by toxic dust from Ground Zero, is today urging the federal government to reverse a decision excluding cancer victims from benefits provided by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in the near future. The Zadroga Act was the last hope for many cancer-stricken Ground Zero first responders who lack adequate health insurance, and who were left out of the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement.
The Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which became law last December, was named after deceased New York Police Department detective James Zadroga, who had worked at Ground Zero. Many of the individuals who participated in the rescue and recovery efforts following the attacks have since been diagnosed with various illnesses, including cancers and respiratory diseases. The Zadroga Act reopened the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for five years to provide payment for job and economic losses for first responders, those trapped in the buildings, and local residents, who suffered illness or injuries related to the toxic dust.
In a report issued on July 26, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced that WTC Administrator John Howard, M.D., had determined that cancers will not yet be considered covered conditions under the Zadroga Act. The decision came after a review of scientific evidence that found “very little” evidence of a link between cancer and the toxic dust cloud that enveloped and then blanketed much of lower Manhattan in the wake of the attacks. The decision will stand until at least 2012, when NIOSH conducts another review.
The passage of the Zadroga Act was especially important to the 325 Ground Zero responders who were left out of the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement, which was approved last year. Parker Waichman Alonso LLP represents 13 of those forgotten heroes, some of whom have cancer and will be left without adequate health coverage because of Dr. Howard's determination.
"This is not just about compensation, this is also about health care," said Matthew McCauley, who represents the firm's Zadroga Act clients. "All of the people who are now barred from obtaining any compensation from the settlement are also barred from getting health care from Zadroga. It's a triple whammy. Not only can you not work, but now you have developed cancer and you have no access to health care to treat that cancer."
McCauley had counted on the Zadroga Act to help people like his client Richard Dambakly, who was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer after spending four months working at Ground Zero, where he set up temporary communication lines for police and firefighters. Dambakly, who has no health insurance and missed the filing deadline for the World Trade Center settlement by only 14 days, is incensed that he and others like him are now being left out again.
“I have to tell you I’m not happy about it,” Dambakly, 49, recently told the Associated Press. “You don’t have to do research to know people have gotten sick from working there. I know I got sick there.”
For months prior to its passage, McCauley and Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, along with sickened heroes like Dambakly, were part of an intense lobbying effort to persuade Congress to pass the Zadroga Act. They found valuable allies in New York Representatives Caroline Maloney, Jerry Nadler and Peter King, as well as Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Those lawmakers have also expressed dismay that NIOSH has chosen to exclude cancer from the list of illnesses covered by the Zadroga Act.
“This is disappointing news for 9/11 responders and survivors who tragically have been diagnosed with cancer since the attacks and are suffering day-to-day and awaiting help," Representatives Maloney, Nadler and King said in a joint statement issued yesterday.
According to a statement from her office, Senator Gillibrand called on Dr. Howard to speed up research and data collection examining ties between cancers and Ground Zero toxins so that an expedited decision can be made on adding the disease to the list of covered conditions. For his part, Senator Schumer called the NIOSH findings "premature" and said in a statement that "the framework established by the Zadroga bill will demonstrate that those who were exposed to the witches’ brew of toxins at Ground Zero have developed serious illnesses, including cancer, and deserve justice."
Contact: Parker Waichman Alonso LLP
Matthew McCauley, Attorney