NEW YORK (PIX11)—Anger, outrage and shame are some of the reactions from 9/11 first responders and their supporters now that the federal government has concluded that World Trade Center heroes diagnosed with cancer will not see a penny from the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Law.
A report released Tuesday by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said "insufficient evidence exists at this time to propose a rule to add cancer." Dr. John Howard, an official involved in the program that will disperse $2.7 billion to those afflicted with illnesses related to working or living near Ground Zero, is credited with making the assessment.
"The politics of all this is unbelievable," Margaret Stroehlein told PIX11 News. Her husband Jeff, a firefighter who spent weeks at Ground Zero, is receiving experimental treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Medical Center for a rare form of brain cancer and therefore cannot speak with media.
"I don't know how many people need to die or how many people get cancer before they realize this," Stroehlein said. " I wish John [Howard] could step a foot in our shoes for a few days."
Jeff Stroehlein trampled through a quagmire of steel, rebar, and toxins at the World Trade Center site after 9/11 looking for life where signs of it were nowhere to be found. Now as he battles to survive a seventh round of chemotherapy, he gets floored by what many consider politics at it's worst,. "He's busy fighting for his life right now and with this he just shakes his head. He's so tired, he's so angry," said his wife Margaret.
He's not alone, by any means. John Feal was instrumental, through his Fealgood Foundation, in organizing the effort to lobby congress to get the Zadroga Bill passed into law nearly eight months ago. "I've been to 53 funerals," he told PIX11 News, "and 51 of them were from cancer."
Feal says that he trusts Dr. John Howard, and calls him an advocate for 9/11 victims who is following protocols placed before him by Congress. "When the bill got passed, the first thing I said was 'now we have more work to do,'" Feal said in an interview Wednesday on the PIX11 Morning News.
As part of an effort to win over Republicans who had been reluctant to vote for the Zadroga Bill for financial reasons last December, cancer was dropped as one of the ailments covered by Zadroga patients. It was written into the new law that federal medical experts would periodically review research that looked at connections between World Trade Center toxins and cancer and decide if it supported adding cancer to the list of covered illnesses.
Tuesday's report was the first periodic review since President Barack Obama signed the Zadroga Bill into law in January. Even though the review did not permit coverage for cancer treatment, federal officials will have another review months from now, and may include cancer coverage then.
Meanwhile, more 9/11 first responders could die from cancer without any of the financial help they had expected from their government, a fact that has angered many people, including PIX11 viewers.
"I think its disgusting," Robert Trebotica wrote in one of the many emails, Facebook posts and tweets that came into the PIX11 Newsroom. He says that his cousin is a 9/11 first responder who did not develop cancer, but instead required a kidney transplant. "We almost lost him but he got one, thank God. We as Americans should give [the first responders] whatever they want."
Wandy Ramirez wrote, "I am sickened by the fact that these people died to help us and we can't offer them the assistance they need... Give them the help they have earned!!!!"
Some of the authors of the Zadroga Bill are saying that they feel shortchanged. U.S. Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan and Queens), Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) and Peter King (R-Nassau and Suffolk Cos.) issued the following joint statement, "As the sponsors of the Zadroga Act, we are disappointed that Dr. Howard has not yet found sufficient evidence to support covering cancers."
9/11 first responders diagnosed with cancer will not see a penny from the new Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation law, according to a report revealed Tuesday.
The report, released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, said "insufficient evidence exists at this time to propose a rule to add cancer."Dr. John Howard, an official involved in the program that will disperse $2.7 billion to those afflicted with illness related to working or living near Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks, is credited with making the assessment.
"The politics of all this is unbelievable, I don't know how many people need to die or how many people get cancer before they realize this," said Stroehlein eight floors below from where her husband is receiving experimental treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering for a rare form of brain cancer, "I wish John could step a foot in our shoes for a few days," said Stroehlein in reference to Dr. John Howard, the Zadroga Program Administrator.
In the days following 9/11, Jeff Stroehlein was in the quagmire of steel, rebar, and toxins looking for life, where signs of it were nowhere to be found. Now as he battles to survive a 7th round of chemotherapy he gets floored by what many consider as politics at it's worst, "He's busy fighting for his life right now and with this he just shakes his head. He's so tired, he's so angry," said his wife Margaret.
He's not alone, even those that authored the bill, U.S. Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, and Peter King felt short-changed. They stated the following in a joint statement, "As the sponsors of the Zadroga Act, we are disappointed that Dr. Howard has not yet found sufficient evidence to support covering cancers."
John Feal, a 9/11 advocate who was one of the prominent voices pushing for aid to workers suffering from post-9/11 illnesses, told the New York Daily News he is disappointed in the report.
"Fifty-one of the 53 funerals I have been to were cancer. I don't care how many years of college you have, I will argue with you the reality is people are dying from cancer and they got it from breathing the air down there," Feal told the News.
On the upside, the decision to leave cancer off the list of diseases covered in the health law isn't set in stone. By law, officials have to revisit the issue in a year, where they will review further scientific evidence that will ultimately determine if cancers should be covered.
There are reportedly some 60,000 people who are being monitored by 9/11 health programs. Dr. Howard will reexamine evidence throughout the year to determine if "cancers" will be added by 2012.