IAVA applauds the efforts of first responders, survivors and veterans to hold Congress accountable
WASHINGTON (December 18, 2015) – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation’s first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, applauds the extension of key provisions of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Congress included a 75-year renewal of the World Trade Center Health Program and a five-year, $4.6 billion Victim Compensation Fund extension in a $1.1 trillion Omnibus spending bill that funds the federal government through the rest of Fiscal Year 2016. Congress had let the critical program expire at the end of September.
“Today’s victory is due to the community of veterans and first responders who stood together to hold Congress accountable,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff. “When we called the IAVA community to action, they acted with ferocity. Many of us who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were also on the front lines in Washington, New York and Pennsylvania on 9/11, and for weeks after, carrying out the work our country called us to do. This was not and is not a New York issue, but a national one.”
As the leading veteran service organization calling for the passage of the Zadroga Act, IAVA was proud to help build a coalition to fight for the bill, which included the Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act, John Feal of the FealGood Foundation, first responders, survivors and veterans from all 50 states. IAVA worked with the coalition to blanket Capitol Hill to push for passage, significantly adding to the list of Congressional support. IAVA members also sent more than 4,100 messages to members of Congress demanding action on the bill.
“We are glad that the Zadroga Act was finally included in today’s Omnibus bill, but more than disappointed at the amount of advocacy it took to get this done,” added Rieckhoff. “First responders like myself were humiliated by having to come to Washington and beg for simple measures to protect our health and provide compensation for healthcare expenses. Once again, our nation’s heroes had to suffer at the hands of partisan politics. Let this be a lesson to future lawmakers — if you want us to protect your freedoms, then protect us.”
Background on the 9/11 Health Crisis
After 9/11, Americans from all 50 states rushed to Ground Zero to assist with the rescue and recovery effort. Thousands of brave men and women risked their lives to help others, working in extremely hazardous conditions often without proper protective equipment while the federal government assured them that the air was safe. Many were injured in the course of this work. Rescue and recovery workers breathed in a toxic stew of chemicals, asbestos, pulverized cement, and other health hazards released into the air when the towers fell, and as the site smoldered for months.
Today, more than 33,000 9/11 responders and survivors are struggling with illnesses or injuries caused by the attacks. They live in every state and 433 out of 435 Congressional districts nationwide. Many are disabled and can no longer work. They are suffering from a host of chronic diseases: asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disease, to name but a few. Medical research has identified more than 50 types of cancer caused by 9/11 toxins. At least 4,166 people have been diagnosed with cancers caused or made worse by 9/11 – a number that is sure to grow in the years to come.
To date over 94 NYPD police officers have reportedly died from their 9/11 injuries since 9/11 — more than were killed on 9/11 — and more than 110 FDNY firefighters have also died in the years since, with more deaths expected among all the responders and survivors in future years.
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Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 8,000 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.