The Need to Reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund

The Need to Reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund

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check one check one two check check you hearing that you you the Judiciary Committee's Committee on constitutional civil rights and civil liberty will come to order without objection the chair is authorized there recesses of subcommittee at any time I welcome everyone to today's hearing on the need to reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund I will now recognize myself for an opening statement September 11 2001 was among the deadliest days in American history with almost 3,000 lives lost in New York at the Pentagon and in Shanksville Pennsylvania because the terrorist attacks the United States on that horrible day but the casualty number is much higher than what is often cited statistics tell us no fact we really don't know the full casualty count from the events of that day even now almost 18 years later that's because years after 9/11 tens of thousands of the first responders who ran towards the raging inferno zhh and toxic clouds unleashed on that day as well as members of the community surrounding the 9/11 crash site in New York continue to develop and suffer from cancers and other severe diseases that are prematurely into their lives or undermine their employment life prospects indeed by one estimate up to 400,000 people may be at risk of developing 9/11 related illnesses and many these people may not even be aware of that fact recognition has continued suffering Congress among other things reopened the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and legislation passed in 2010 signed into law in 2011 and authorized the Victims Compensation Fund for five years Congress established the original fund just 11 days after 9/11 to provide compensation for those who were physically injured by the attacks and for relatives of those who were killed that original fund operated from a one 2:04 and awarded over 7 billion dollars when a reopened the beat the fund in 2011 Congress expanded the eligibility criteria to include workers who assisted with debris removal in the months after the attacks Congress then I'll reauthorized the fund in 2015 for an additional five years as currently set to expire in December of 2020 reopening the Victims Compensation Fund Congress was addressing the fact that responders and recovery workers reportedly significant higher risks of lower and upper respiratory diseases in the general population in five years the 9/11 attacks and seventy percent of the 911 first responders suffer from new are worse and respiratory symptoms in that time period these days a disease is only worsened in severity over time as they developed into a interstitial lung disease and sarcoidosis conditions of which lung functions substantially deteriorates preventing adequate oxygen from entering the bloodstream and vital organs and leading to additional life-threatening conditions like pulmonary disease now we are saying that one of our witnesses dr. Jacqueline Moline characterizes as a third wave of 911 related illnesses including increased cancer rate among first responders community members since 2015 part of that reason is that cancer can have a very long latency period meaning the symptoms the disease may not manifest in a person for decades after the initial exposure to carcinogens in the face of these trends the fund which is overseen by the Department of Justice has done an admiral job as of April 30 2019 the Victims Compensation Fund received nearly 50,000 claims found 24,000 claimants to be eligible for compensation it's about half and met initial revised awards for 28,000 claims or to total more than five billion dollars as of April 30 unfortunately the fund is now facing a funding crisis one that is not of its own making when Congress reauthorized the Victims Compensation Fund of 2015 it prohibited the fund from spending more than the appropriated seven point four billion dollars to pay awards and administrative expenses by law the fund must annually reassess its policies and procedures to assure among other things that it does not see the spending cap yet since 2015 the Victims Compensation Fund to see an increase in claims driven by various factors and putting a marked increase in cancer claims and claims from the survivor population the result is a defect of February 25 2019 the fund was forced to institute substantial cuts depending in future Awards fifty percent cuts for claims on or before February 1 2019 and 70 percent cuts for claims filed thereafter Congress has proposed a solution HR 13 27 that never forget the heroes the permanent authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act would authorize the VFC until 29 t ensure that sufficient funds are available to pay future claims require payment of any award amounts that were cut and make a number of other useful changes by enacting this legislation will not have to force 911 responders and survivors to come begging to Congress every five years to step up and do the right thing I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this bill I'm proud because this is not simply a New York event and I see misters Eldon's here who represents part of New York and showing his interest as well as miss Maloney and mr. King and mr. Naville has been a champion of this issue and it's chairman of this committee and primarily responsible for this hearing but this was an American tragedy an American event and I recall it so vividly and I was in New York within a month and going to a baseball championship game and ran into Giuliani who at the time was a friendly guy and got me somehow down to 9/11 and I went down there and had my mask and you name it walked around in the debris I commend all of you for what you did you put your health in your life at risk we know that and you need to be compensated your American heroes remson Maloney King have introduced the bill that'll affect the work on behalf of 9/11 responders and survivors I thank them and I thank representative Collins for his co-sponsorship of the bill thankful for the responders for the service and sacrifice for a country grateful them to the survivors and all the witnesses and to testify before us today this is a bit unusual because this is my subcommittee which I chair and I'm chairing it now but it's a special moment for mr. Nadler this is an issue that's very close to him and his constituents and for that reason I will surrender the chair to him to oversee this meeting which is appropriate and I guess this is the time that I'll do it I don't know if it's the right time but this is the time I'm doing it well I'll recognize mr. Johnson then and then I'm surrendering the chair Thank You mr. chairman and mr. chairman the tragic events of September 11 2001 in New York in Pennsylvania and Virginia took innocent lives on American soil on a scale not seen since the attack on Pearl Harbor it also unified the country as brave first responders search for bodies and headed a massive recovery effort in New York first responders did this amidst a smoldering pile of over 220 stories of building crushed into a dense accumulated mountain of steaming hot toxic chemicals that burned for months my wife and I visited that site just a month after and it was still seemingly on fire many sacrificed their own health and their efforts to help their fellow Americans in and around debris that included two steel beams in the shape of a cross which now rest in the National September 11th memorial and museum just as that cross stood as a sign of hope for so many so to do our programs to help take care of those to whom we owe our deepest gratitude after 9/11 a federally funded program was created to compensate and pay medical expenses for those who develop respiratory and other illnesses related primarily to the rehabilitation of the site of the former World Trade Center payments made from the fund are administered by a special master who has announced that the fund is running out of money and with some current and future claims that are yet unpaid that fund was authorized in the manner in which all federal programs should be authorized namely for a limited duration within which time Congress is able to periodically revisit the program's operation and fiscal solvency before potentially reauthorizing and funding it further as it goes forward into the future the Special Master who runs this program and who is with us here today is a very well-regarded public servant and I'm aware of no problems with the program's administration we have a lot of confidence in this program and so I support reauthorizing the program in a manner that's fair to everyone this is unquestionably the right thing to do and I expect that this bill will pass with with broad bipartisan support I am personally myself the son of a firefighter who is critically burned and permanently disabled in the line of duty back in 1984 and I know the the sacrifices and the needs of these heroes and their families personally in addition of my dad being burned over 80% of his body third-degree burns he inhaled toxic chemicals and in a fire and he suffered the remaining 32 years of his life as a result of that tragedy the only concern we have here and you'll hear people talk about it is is just the latest proposal to read as the program's HR 1327 creates an unlimited authorization for appropriations for the fund and extends it until the year 2099 Gresham budget office isn't able to determine the cost of such an extended program and of course it's rule is limited to predicting cost just ten years out so right now we have a twenty two trillion dollar federal debt and that's just the thing that keeps us up at night it makes us have to address these issues as responsibly as possible and I know everyone here understands and feels that burden our objective of course is fairness to all and by all we mean all Americans including first responders nationwide who have heeded the call to service through the smoldering remains of terrorist attacks but also through the dense wildfire smoke of California and the wreckage following a Kansas tornado and the floods in Louisiana and all other disasters and tragedies everywhere we have to approach the reauthorization of this fund today in the same way we would approach any fund designed to compensate first responders nationwide and other similar circumstances in a way capable of making future funds available for future heroes as well with that we look forward to hearing from all of our witnesses here today including those who worked so selflessly under very dangerous conditions to help our nation heal I yield back the balance of my time Thank You mr. Johnson I now recognize myself before an opening statement 18 years ago on September 11th 2001 Osama bin Laden orchestrated the deadliest terrorist attack in American history killing almost 3,000 people in a single day and wounding thousands of more in New York City the attack happened in my district the attacks created an environmental nightmare when the twin towers collapsed in lower Manhattan hundreds of tons of contaminants poured onto the streets and covered first responders residents office workers and students in a cloud of dust when many of us think of 9/11 we think of planes flying into the Twin Towers where we see the towers collapsing but there were other pictures that day that captured the gravity gravity of the loss the scale of the destruction and the massive amounts of toxins that were released into the air on that Tuesday morning I want to share those images with you today as you can see if you look at the Jumbotrons I suppose as you can see New York City was covered in toxic ash the air was full of debris dust and other deadly toxins many of my constituents are forced to flee their homes firefighters police and rescue and recovery workers from around the country came to our aid working in horrible dangerous conditions to help one another and help the United States get back on its feet I was in Washington with my wife when the attacks began we immediately rushed to return to New York City by train that day since all flights had been grounded what sticks with me from that day was the eerie silence that greeted us when we stepped out of Penn Station the city seemed empty nothing moving no people no cars no buses no subway trains nothing the only thing that was there was a strange odor that hung in the air the next day on September 12th I walk the streets of lower Manhattan through the rivers of ash and debris and I saw the unthinkable damage I was there with then mayor Giuliani and we were soon joined by then President George Bush then senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Chuck Schumer there was no question in our minds that we must work together in a bipartisan manner to do what it took to get New York back on his feet to get the country moving again and to get help for everyone affected by the attacks but in days following the attack a problem arose the EPA insisted contrary to ample evidence that the air in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn was safe to breathe that was not true it was an untruth that caused many thousands of people to become sick and tragically for many of those same people to die and it was an untruth I worked for many years to expose because as we knew even then the air was not safe to breathe in fact it was deadly thousands of responders from all over the country worked on the site thousands and thousands of responders and workers and residents were exposed to horrible toxins and we're not provided with protective equipment the federal government did not step in to conduct the proper comprehensive cleanup of the schools offices and residences in lower Manhattan they told my constituents to clean up asbestos and other toxins from their apartments with a damp cloth and no protective equipment today and result of the attacks and as a result of those lies more than 95,000 responders and survivors are sick it was for those tens of thousands of brave selfless and innocent responders and survivors the Congress came together in 2010 after years of struggles and negotiations to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 health and Compensation Act and to fulfill our moral obligation as Lincoln said to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan does the drug Act established a national health program to care for those made sick by exposure to toxins in the days weeks and months after the 9/11 attack it also reopened the Victim Compensation Fund the VFC to provide to provide support for sick responders or survivors as the programs are set to expire in 2015 Congress once again came together in a bipartisan manner and reauthorized them we made the health program essentially permanent and set the expiration date for into the future the year 2000 90 ensuring that all those affected by the attacks on September 11th 2001 would have the health care they need for as long as they need it but the 2015 reauthorization only extended the VFC for five years today the programs are mostly working residents of 433 out of 435 congressional districts received care through the 9/11 health program more than 28,000 individuals representing all 50 states have been found eligible for compensation from the VFC or the 5.1 billion dollars has been awarded our actions as a congress have touched many lives provided comfort to the sick and help families struggling with the loss of a loved one to pay the bills and send children to college we know all too well the people who are sick now will only get sicker and unfortunately many will die those who are not sick now may become sick years in the future as diseases surfaced after long latency periods we are already seeing the impact that long-delayed cancers of that nearly 11,000 responders and survivors have been diagnosed with cancer to date a number which will only go up it is clear the five-year reauthorization was not nearly long enough it further as the number of sick responders and survivors continues to rise the limited resources Congress provided to the VFC have been strained and now because of the greater number of sick people than anticipated the thousands of sick responders and survivors are facing up to 70 percent cuts in compensation because the money is running out these cuts were certainly not intended by Congress and we know that the administration and the Special Master are not making these cuts maliciously rather the VFC is working to keep the funded I'm sorry it's working to keep the program funded as long as possible to give every sick responder and survivor at least some compensation but that does not mean we can simply accept these cuts and allow the program to expire and so many more men women and young adults will need compensation and care that is what brings us here today a 70 percent cut in compensation to victims of 9/11 is simply intolerable and Congress must not allow it Congress Wilson was not allowed the VFC to expire while people are still sick and the World Trade Center Health Program is still operational the time has come for us to act in the past I would have had to call upon a committee chairman to call a hearing or to schedule a markup on legislation to address these problems but today as chairman of the Judiciary Committee I am able to convene this hearing and to announce that we will not wait to markup this legislation we will hold a markup of this legislation tomorrow there are two moral imperatives that dictate why we must act number one it was America that was attacked on 9/11 not just New York or Washington DC number two it was the federal government that bears some responsibility because it told everyone who is safe to return to lower Manhattan when it knew that it was not now the federal government must bear the burden to caring for and support the people affected by the September 11th attacks and their aftermath again I am proud to work in a bipartisan manner with my longtime colleagues representives carolyn Maloney and peter king and senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer to reauthorize these critical programs I am pleased that we also have the support of Senator Cory Gardner our very own ranking member of the full Judiciary Committee representative Doug Collins in fact we have more than 300 bipartisan co-sponsors of this bill in the house I want to thank the people in this room for everything they have done to get so many congressional co-sponsors so quickly I urge all of my colleagues to work with us in support of reauthorization and to move this bill through Congress to the President's desk as quickly as possible just as we stood together as a nation in the days following September 11th 2001 and just as we stood together in 2010 and 2015 to authorize and fund these vital programs we must now join forces one more time to ensure that the heroes of 9/11 are not abandoned when they need us most we must sustain the VFC we must protect the heroes and survivors of 9/11 we must pass to never forget the heroes Act of 2019 and we will before I yield back I would add one more thing for many people in this country and perhaps even people in this committee 9/11 ended that day perhaps they light a candle in church every year on the anniversary perhaps they pray for the victims but for our panel of witnesses today for many people in the audience for congresswoman Maloney for congressman King and for me and my staff 9/11 never ended we live every day with the events of that morning and the impact of the decisions made by the federal government in the aftermath while I know it can be frustrating watching a body as large as the US Congress work its will when we do Act we can bring tremendous resources and the strength of the entire federal government to bear in a problem and we can improve the lives of so many it is my hope in my sincere wish that Congress will act swiftly to stop these devastating cuts to extend this program and to provide as much peace of mind as we possibly can to those who continue to suffer from the 9/11 attacks we will never forget I yield back it is now my pleasure to recognize the ranking member of the full committee the gentleman from Georgia mr. Collins is opening statement Thank You mr. chairman and this is a day in which we do come together in this committee I think with a common purpose and I want to thank congresswoman Maloney and congressman king but also my friend Lee Zeldin who has a number of these folks in his district and along with you mr. chairman who have been carrying this fight because as we look across what we're talking about here we have to remember that on that day depraved Islamic terrorists designed September 11th acts to it murder as many innocent Americans as possible either on that day or in the future is what happened those attacks killed almost 3,000 people and left a smoldering pile of toxic debris in New York in the wake of such depravity thousands of rescuers responded with nobility and courage first responder scale smoldering piles of debris exhumed victims with dignity and restored Ground Zero to its current place is ascent in the center of a loving resilient community a place that includes the National September 11th memorial even yesterday this lives on if I heard a story just yesterday that they identified another victim 18 years later no one is forgotten no one is left behind that's what our country symbolizes but it's also fitting Congress do more than moralize we must help take care of those heroes the 9/11 first responders like all first responders deserve to have their sacrifices recognized this program will mitigate the damage these public servants and their families experienced as a direct result of their sacrifice on behalf of others legislation has been introduced to reauthorize the current September 11th Victims Compensation Fund and while the physical impact of this legislation isn't clear at the moment what is clear is our collective duty to see that our first responders are treated fairly in accordance with what they have already given to a grateful nation I must also say on a personal note you never forget and I carried the images that I'm proud the chairman actually showed this morning with me when I was in Iraq for the time I serve there was a reminder of the service that had already been given not knowing on that morning what would happen but knowing on that morning it would not be forgotten and what we were seeing today is I can remember back as a chaplain but I serve as an Air Force and still do 19 years later so I remember chaplain Judge being carried out the first the honest sacrifice of one serving others and the many that were to follow those are the images that bring us to this hearing today and we can have differences but they became heroes angels in heaven if you would without asking they began that day with hope with love on the morning very similar as today and out of the fires of terror revealed the still of our country it is still revealed in our people today with that it is our time it is our time to finish this it is our time to remember the work the life the pictures and the families that we will never forget in fact we will look back on and find our strength and those who went before in or suffering now with that I yield back Thank You mr. Collins and before I introduce the witnesses I want to note the presence here of our colleague leas Eldon and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for his great work in supporting the bill and in gathering a lot of the co-sponsors I will now introduce the witnesses on the first panel the Honorable carolyn Maloney represents the 12th congressional district of New York she has been a member of Congress since 1993 among their many accomplishments she is one of the lead sponsors of HR 13 27 to never forget the heroes permanent authorization of September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act she has long been a leader in fighting to help victims of the 9/11 attacks and and has been a staunch advocate for the victim compensation fund the Honorable Peter King represents the second congressional district of New York he has also been a member of Congress since 1993 and among other things has been a tireless champion of 911 responders and survivors his long work with representative Maloney and with me to create the World Trade Center Health Program and to reopen and sustain the Victim Compensation Fund please note that your written statements will be entered into the record in their entirety according re s that you summarize your testimony in five minutes supposed to read this you know to help you stay within that time there's a timing light on the table when the light switches from green to yellow you have one minute to conclude your testimony when the light turns red it signals your five minutes have expired and I hope the members of the second panel have heard that so I don't have to repeat that later representative Maloney you may begin thank you Thank You chairman Adler and Cohen ranking members Collins and Johnson I want to thank you for inviting me to testify today on the never forget the heroes permanent authorization of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund which I introduced with chairman Nadler King and 90 of our colleagues today we are proud to have a strongly bipartisan bill with 306 co-sponsors 80 of them are Republican and I am grateful that the committee recognizes the importance of supporting 911 responders survivors and their families and the urgency of passing this bill as soon as possible we recently remembered d-day a day when all Americans came together to defend democracy liberty and freedom and though we are not members of the greatest greatest generation our first responders defended and many gave their lives for just those same values on September 11 this country was horrific ly attacked killing exactly 2997 innocent people they were murdered and thousand more were injured in New York Shanksville Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon simply for being American or being on American soil and yet it still gets worse the death toll from that terrible day continues to grow in the years since 9/11 tens of thousands more men and women including first responders relief workers local residents have lost their lives or gotten sick as a result of their exposure to toxic chemicals pulverized glass powdered cement at the crash sites even though the US government told them repeatedly over and over gain that it was safe to work at the site soon deaths from 9/11 diseases may outnumber those lost on that fateful day 9/11 was an attack on America and in response our nation committed to finding those responsible and holding them accountable the first veterans of the war on terror were the first responders the volunteers and the survivors of 9/11 today they live all over the country in 433 out of the 435 congressional districts they are firefighters police officers construction workers electrical engineers volunteers and from every single state who answered the call and traveled to New York or DC or Pennsylvania to help with recovery we have a moral obligation to provide support and compensation to these heroes and their families not only did they come to our aid when we needed them but many are sick because they trusted the federal government when it said that the air around Ground Zero was safe to breathe in October 2011 a nine-year fight then James Zadroga 9/11 health and Compensation Act of 2010 was signed into law establishing the World Trade Center Health Program and reopening and revising the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund these programs provide health monitoring and financial compensation to first responders survivors and their families in 2015 I'm proud to say that Congress permanently reauthorized the health program but the Victims Compensation Fund will expire next year if we don't act because it was only given a five-year extension making matters worse a special master of the fund announced in February the that the fund would not make it to 2020 because of a funding shortfall partly due to the increase in cancer claims in order to extend its life the VFC was forced to cut also all appending a war by fifty to seventy percent and this was devastating to the survivors and their families for the last three and a half months they have not been getting the help they deserve they hope that our nation owes them since February 2019 for than 830 compensation recipients have received reduce awards from the VFC because of this shortfall this is unacceptable and we need to correct it they shouldn't have to worry about the program running out of funding and they should not have to come back to Congress every five years to beg for program reauthorization that kind of uncertainty is unfair and unsustainable our legislation would make these families whole by requiring the Special Master to revisit these reduced claims and pay out the differences I must tell you that as evidenced by the more than 300 co-sponsors of the never forget the heroes Act this is not a democrat or republican issue or a new york issue these are Americans of all political persuasions and every corner of our country who are counting on us our whole country owes them a debt a debt that we can never fully repay and and look at the people who are sitting here with us today these are the heroes and the heroines the reasons that we are fighting so hard for this program I want to conclude by recognizing them and thanking them and their families for the hours that they have spent lobbying working to get this program reauthorized you will hear from a few of them today and they continue to be our inspiration every single day that we fight for their health care and their financial security and as much as I love being with them and talking to them they should not have to come back to Congress for another reauthorization we are counting on you to make this program permanent to reauthorize it that's the least that we can do as a grateful nation thank you thank you and let me also note the presence another longtime and key supporter of the 911 there's a drug act and their subsequent bills congressman eliot Angle New York representative King you may begin now Thank You chairman I'll stick my statement for the record it was like to make a few remarks here on this vital vital bill I want to thank you I want to thank you recommend comes from Collins ranking member mr. Johnson and also Steve Cohen this is a central vital bill it has a human aspect to it I want to also just mention all of the FDNY NYPD Port Authority cops EMS workers court officers construction workers residents your residents Terry students all of whom have suffered over the years we went through six months awakes and funerals after 9/11 and we thought that was it and now the last few years those wakes and funerals have started again just just last week in the East Meadow about ten minutes my home a Port Authority lieutenant died from 9/11 illness so this is something goes on and on and on and it's soon we'll have more people dying after 9/11 than actually died on 9/11 and that shows how vital it says this is not a New York issue it's not an insurgency issue it's definitely a national issue and what also take the time to thank the Special Master I think you want to re-emphasize what you had said this program has been run exceptionally well the fact that it's running out of funds is no reflection at all on the administration of the program is rather it's a reflection of how deadly these illnesses are and how long they were dormant and latent and how deadly they are and how vicious they are and all of us knows a friend a neighbor a constituent friends and neighbors and constituents who are suffering and have died people who are going back every three or four months for medical tests taking 20-30 medications a day constantly going back in for biopsies this is a real national tragedy which did not end at all on November under September 11th or September 12th just the other day I got a call from a local radio reporter who was just diagnosed several months ago just finished his chemotherapy he down there for weeks and months afterwards reporting again as to what had happened there what was going on and as brave as those men and women were who rushed in on a September 11th and nobody can ever ever question or even think of excelling the bravery though they showed well you said Jerry I think too often we forget what went on in those weeks and months afterwards when people down there inhaling those toxic fumes involved in the recovery involving in involved in doing what they could to find the remains of their loved ones so again we owe it to all of them and let me give a special thanks to Jon Stewart missing anyone put himself not just doing you know going on television it's grunt work of going door to door talking to members of Congress he is more patience and I would have been talking to some members of Congress he just goes in there and he just really just it will talk and explain hey why this is a human issue why it's not Republican and Democratic issue and again he just does his excellent job and I really want to thank him I don't think we would have been where we were back in 2015 or we would have been where we are now if we're not for John's efforts so John I want to thank you for that and also I want to thank Lee Sheldon eliot engel Eliot's been there from the start Leah's been there since ever since he came to Congress and he realizes the true impact of this and again Frank remember John I know you mentioned the issue of course and that has to be addressed I'm gonna but on the other hand we have to find a way to get it done it's really as I could've saying it's simple but in many ways it is we have an obligation to get this done these are real people who are dying and we have to navigation to them and to their families because they are they're not so any fault of theirs but because their courage because their bravery because they some a congressman that on some of his residences lived in the wrong place at the wrong time and they were told was safe to continue living there students at Stuyvesant High School I mean they say these are innocent victims they're the first innocent victims or the first great war of the 21st century and we owe it to them buddy also we owe it to future generations if something like this like God forbid happen in the future we want those people who are rushing into the buildings those people who are taking care of the recovery that they know that they are assured that they will receive the compensation from the government that they deserve so again I am proud to be here today I can't emphasize enough how vital this legislation is and also to thank the men and women behind us who you know they're the ones who are suffering Carol and you and I we can talk about it we can sort of argue on the floor of Congress about it that's nothing compared to what they're going for every day their lives so with that I thank you for holding this hearing I thank the members for their attention I thank you witnesses are coming after us and I just say that September 11 saw the true bravery of the American people the weeks and months after that show the resilience and bravery of the American people and also I think if we can get this job done it was so that Congress understands and respects and will always honor those who put their lives on the line for their country and with that I yield back thank you so much thank you representative King I obviously share those sentiments I would also note the presence of a number of the advocates who fought so long for this legislation and John fields been one of the leaders of them will now hear from our second panel of witnesses and while there are getting seated I'll do the introductions Roopa Bhattacharya is the Special Master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund she was appointed to that position by the Attorney General in July 2016 during her tenure Special Master she has overseen the award of over 3.3 billion dollars to more than 13,000 eligible claimants she first joined the Department of Justice in 1996 through the Attorney General on this program as a trial attorney in the Civil Division and has spent most of her career there eventually rising to director the torts branch prior to her appointment as Special Master she received her JD from Harvard Law School a master's degree in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and her bachelor's degree from Tulane University dr. Jacqueline Moline his professor of occupational medicine epidemiology and Prevention and internal medicine at the Donald and Barbara School of Medicine and Hofstra north well she's also an adjunct clinical associate professor of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in addition she serves as a member of the World Trade Center Health Program steering committee she received her MD from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine her Master of Science degree in community medicine from Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the BA from the University of Chicago Lila Nordstrom is a 9/11 survivor and was a Stuyvesant's high school student on September 11th 2001 she currently serves as executive director of Sky health the position she has held since May 2006 in that role she creates and coordinates efforts to educate young adults about health services available to 911 survivors today however she is testifying in her personal capacity she has also worked as a freelance writer and columnist she received her BA with honors from Vassar College and that's the st. Rose Henry is the widow of a construction worker and 9/11 World Trade Center responder candido's Henry was a member of the laborers International Union of North America local 79 mr. Henry was working for a contractor to Ground Zero from February 2002 to June 2002 he died last month from a 9/11 related cancer Thomas Monell retired as a supervisory special agent after a 30-year career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on September 11th 2001 mr. Monell witnessed American Airlines flight 77 crash and explode into the Pentagon he immediately responded to the crash site and continued working at the Pentagon for the next two months as a result of this work he incurred a serious illness he received his bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Lycoming College Michael O'Connell retired as lieutenant with the fire department of the city of New York in 2009 from September 11th through to through September 18 2001 he performed rescue and recovery work at the World Trade Center site he was awarded the 9/11 survivor medal by the FDNY he joined the FDNY into in 1998 and later joined the FDNY I'm sorry he joined the NYPD the police the in 1998 and later joined the fire department in 2001 as was several of our other witnesses mr. O'Connell incurred a serious illness as a result of his rescue and recovery work he studied nursing at Molloy College in Nassau Community College Luis Alvarez is a retired bomb squad detective with the New York Police Department it was a responder at the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001 today he suffers from 9/11 related liver cancer that has metastasized throughout most of his body and is about to have a 69th round of chemotherapy prior to joining the NYPD he served in the United States Marine Corps after retiring from the NYPD Lewis became an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the Transportation Security Administration at John F Kennedy International Airport John Stewart is the former host of The Daily Show in Comedy Central of most relevance to today's hearing he has been an outspoken advocate for 9/11 responders and survivors and for both the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and the World Trade Center Health Program he has been a tireless advocate and raising awareness about the treatment of 9/11 responders and survivors to this end he invited several of them onto the daily show made numerous trips to capital held to Hill to advocate on their behalf is a graduate of the College of William and Mary we welcome our distinguished witnesses and we thank you all for participating in today's hearing now if you would please rise and raise your right hand I will begin by swearing you in do you swear affirm under penalty of perjury that the testimony you're about to give is true and correct to the best of your knowledge information and belief so help you God the witnesses may be seated but the written is that the records show the witness is affirmative the witnesses answered in the affirmative please note that your written statements will be entered into the record in their entirety accordingly I ask that you summarize your testimony in five minutes to help you stay within that time there is a timing light on your table when the light switches from green to yellow you have one minute to come your testimony when the light turns red signals your five minutes have expired this is about Acharya you may begin chairman Adler ranking member Collins chairman Cowan ranking member Johnson and distinguished members of the subcommittee thank you for inviting me to testify about the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund or the VFC hearings like this remind us that September 11th 2001 marked only the beginning of an ongoing and evolving tragedy to those of you who share the table with me who were there who responded to the attacks or would not allow terrorism to prevent you from returning to your schools homes or workplaces thank you for your heroism and your sacrifice I have spent my career in public service including more than 20 years at the Justice Department but since the attorney general appointed me as Special Master in 2016 I have been humbled by the responsibility of serving the strong and resilient 911 community I was privileged recently to attend the dedication of the memorial Glade at the 9/11 Museum in New York and I was reminded of the startling fact that the nearly 3,000 lives lost on September 11th may soon be overtaken by the number of lives lost in the years afterwards to illnesses that stemmed from exposure to toxins at all three attack sites while no amount of money can fully compensate for such losses I am proud that the VFC has been able to provide some needed relief to those who have suffered for so long the VFC is an extraordinarily successful program as of May 31st we have awarded almost 5.2 billion dollars to nearly 20 2,500 individuals who suffer physical health conditions including to the families of more than 850 who have died as a result of their exposure in New York City at the Pentagon and in Shanksville those compensated include first responders workers or volunteers in construction cleanup and debris removal and people who lived worked or went to school in the affected areas the VFC has received claims from individuals in every state of the nation including those who came in from around the country as part of the response efforts and those who have relocated in the years since the attacks in my three years at the VFC we have significantly improved efficiency and claim determination rates the VFC now issues at nearly as many awards each year as it did in total in its first five years and the VFC under my leadership has not documented a single instance of fraud and a paid claim we work diligently with the department's office of the inspector general to ensure that any indicia of fraud is investigated and reconciled despite its successes however the VFC face is a difficult situation we received a record number of new claims in 2018 and we are on pace to exceed that number in 2019 the issue is basic math almost five point two billion dollars awarded to nearly twenty two thousand five hundred individuals just over two billion dollars left with over 21,000 claims and amendments still needing a decision and thousands more expected to be filed before the VCS December 18th 2020 deadline several trends help us understand how we got here since reauthorization of the droga Act in December of 2015 we have seen a dramatic increase in claims filed on behalf of those who have died as a result of their 9/11 related exposure a significant increase in cancer claims and a marked increase in claims from survivors meaning those who lived worked or went to school in the affected areas taking account of these trends and the increasing rates of both claims submissions and award determinations in February I determined that the VFC had insufficient funding to compensate all pending claims and those projected to be filed under then existing policies with that determination I was required by law to modify the CF policies and procedures so that the VFC does not exceed its appropriated limit this meant making significant reductions in awards in deciding how to do this I felt strongly that I could not leave some claimants uncompensated or fail to make allowance for those who suffer most I concluded that the fairest solution was to apply a percentage reduction to all claims thus depending on when the claim was submitted calculated lost values are being reduced by either fifty or seventy percent with required offsets taken in full I wish to thank the judiciary committee and the members of the subcommittee for giving me the opportunity to speak to you about the successful and important program along with my dedicated staff and with the full support of the Justice Department I remain strongly committed to serving the 911 community we remain hopeful that our work continues to provide needed relief and we stand ready along with the Justice Department to work with you to ensure that Congress has the information it needs to address appropriate legislative options thank you thank you dr. Moline good morning chairman adler chairman cohen ranking member johnson and members of the committee i'm honored to be here this morning my name is dr. jacqueline Moline I'm the chairperson of the department of occupational medicine epidemiology and Prevention at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra University northwell and I'm the director of the North Pole Queens World Trade Center Health Program my specialty occupational and environmental medicine deals with the impact of hazardous substances on the health of individuals on September 11th I like every person in New York watched in shock and horror as our nation was attacked my colleagues at Mount Sinai where I was then working knew of the potential for health effects related to asbestos and other toxicants we knew there would be disease in the short term and the long term our immediate concern was for those acute health effects the first wave my colleagues and I have written extensive about this extensively about this and copies of sub publications are attached to my testimony at Mount Sinai we began seeing patients that month through their tremendous efforts of the New York congressional delegation and organized labor in April 2002 we were given one-year funding to begin medical surveillance programs for rescue and recovery workers construction workers and volunteers exposed at the pile at the beginning we could only evaluate patients and tell them their health conditions we are not allowed to provide treatment this program was it extended one year and we kept continued a partnership with SUNY Stony Brook Queens College New York University and Rutgers to see patients Incans convenient for them these surveillance programs continued eventually including treatment and evolved into the World Trade Center Health Program authorized eventually by the state James Zadroga Act of 2010 after reauthorization in 2016 we had 75 years of funding for medical surveillance and care of World Trade Center related disorders as well as dedicated research as of March 31st 2019 ninety five thousand three hundred and twenty first responders and survivors the residents school children children and individuals who worked in lower Manhattan who returned to their businesses have been evaluated yes the towers were in New York City and the Pentagon is here in DC but it was an attack on our nation and individuals from all over the country participated in this rescue and recovery effort over the past 18 years some people have lived have who lived in the Metro New York area have moved to retire to other parts of the country due to these reasons there's a national component to the World Trade Center program as of May 20 nineteen sixteen thousand six hundred and eighty four individuals are enrolled in the national program in every state downtown Manhattan home to thousands of residents was blanketed in thick dust school children like Lila sitting here had been evacuated from their places of learning on September 11th they returned to their schools despite fires that continued to rage and amid dust that persisted through May 2002 the survivors are also covered by the zoo droga Act and the number of survivors has increased by three hundred and twenty seven percent in eight years medical conditions have persisted and that's the second wave for example over 50 percent of firefighters who worked with the World Trade Center site had developed a persistent respiratory condition rates of asthma remain elevated along with a variety of other diseases here we are nearly twenty years later and unfortunately moved into the third wave of diseases those conditions that take years to develop we don't know a lot about the actual dust and fumes that envelope lower Manhattan but I'd like to reiterate that as medical professionals we never believed the air was safe to breathe that is now amply clear the World Trade Center now collects additional data on diseases that have been classified as World Trade Center related this is crucial since early data collection on who was exposed was lacking further research is ongoing to determine what new diseases might be added to the approved list since 2012 when over 50 cancers were added to the list of World Trade Center conditions there have been eleven thousand eight hundred and twenty four World Trade Centers certified cancers treated including two 2614 prostate 552 long 741 breast including over 51 over 35 male breast cancers 667 thyroid 571 cases of lymphoma and hundreds more glioma glioblastoma have occurred like the one that killed Canada's Henry a patient at the north well program you will hear from his widow in this session the survivor program has had 3030 individuals with cancer and in the national program the number of cancer cases certified increased from 7 in 2013 to 708 and 2018 nearly 20,000 children attended school below Houston Street and were exposed to over 150 toxicants and that deadly Bru overall over 55,000 people have been certified for at least one world trade Center related health condition in the responder and survivor programs and in the national programs the effects from exposure of 911 have not only been measured in the number of deaths cancers lung transplants and countless new cases of asthma studies have shown the impact unemployment disability and early retirement I'd like to briefly tell you about the impact by hearing by telling you about a real person le Engler who's here today and has allowed me to give a brief description of her health issues was a certified industrial hygiene hygienist in charge of health and safety for the United Federation of Teachers she went into every school in lower Manhattan assess the immediate health risks for staff and children in 2008 she developed a second breast cancer a condition she had fought and beat in 1985 she developed asthma shortly after 9/11 but it was under control recently she's had severe asthma attacks that have required hospital visits le like so many in the World Trade Center community fought these illnesses with courage after 2011 she also realized that all 500 staff at these schools in lower Manhattan were eligible for the health program if they had World Trade Center conditions and she began staff outreach she also advocates on behalf of a ckets on behalf the school children in lower Manhattan who have now all graduated and moved throughout this country her clinical future like so many others is uncertain and she will require close monitoring and care for the rest of her life she is truly a hero on September 11th 2973 people lost their lives including firefighters police officers EMS workers and people just going to work since then an additional two hundred four police officers a hundred and eighty FDNY firefighters and in total an estimated 2,000 responders and survivors have died as a result of 911 illnesses with every day these numbers increase and soon the day will come when there are more people who died of World Trade Center related illnesses after 9/11 than perished on that horrible day based on the trends we have seen in research this third wave of 911 diseases will continue because of the monitoring program were able to identify new clothes of disease that will develop such as neurological conditions autoimmune disorders and diseases we can't foresee I consider myself fortunate to have been in New York City on 9/11 so I could contribute to caring for the thousands of men and women who suffered from occupational and environmental exposures from the World Trade Center dust and fumes being able to serve my patients and our nation as a physician involved in the World Trade Center health programs is one of the greatest honors of my life thank you thank you dr. Moline MS Nordstrom thank you to chairman Adler chairman Cohen and ranking member Johnson and the members of the committee for holding a hearing on this incredibly important issue my name is Lila Nordstrom and on September 11th I was a 17 year old student at Stuyvesant High School which is a public school that is three blocks from the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11 I was in class with windows facing south and my classmates and I watched as planes hit the Twin Towers we watched dozens of people jumping to their deaths we watched thousands of evacuees stream out of the area and then the first tower fell and a dust cloud rushed our building and we couldn't see anything I was one of the first people out of Stuyvesant when we finally got evacuation orders and the moment I stepped outside the second tower collapsed and everybody took off in a run I walked ten miles that day I couldn't reach my parents I didn't end up even going home I ended up walking all the way to Queens after the tack of the attacks we were sent to a school in Brooklyn temporarily and the Stuyvesant building was used as a morgue and a command center for the cleanup effort at Ground Zero because of its proximity unfortunately after epa administrator christine Todd Whitman told the residents of downtown and New Yorkers that the air was safe to breathe government officials made the decision to return us to our school building and we went back on October 9th which is less than a month after the attacks Ground Zero was still on fire and would be for another four months the smell of smoke was suffocating everyday and despite assurances from officials very little got done to clean the school first no hazmat team got called in the filters in our ventilation system were not replaced until January the air vents which were filled with World Trade Center dust were not cleaned until the following summer and the auditorium's contaminated upholstery was not actually replaced fully until 2014 which you can see on the image above the school was also continually recontaminate admite Rux that were carting toxic debris from the World Trade Center site past our school and dumping it into barges that were parked next to the air intake system testing of the air outside of our school showed that on many days it was actually as bad as the air at Ground Zero itself and you can see where the barge was located that picture is taken from the doors of our school in total more than 19,000 public school students return to school downtown during the cleanup as did thousands of teachers and school staff and tens of thousands of students and professors from borough of Manhattan Community College and Pace University and NYU downtown residents and office workers were actively encouraged to return even those that had small children at home and many of them got left to clean up dangerously contaminated spaces without much guidance the federal federal dollars even got spent by the lower Manhattan Development Corporation to encourage new residents to move into the area because unsurprisingly they began to face really high vacancy rates through all of this the EPA knew that the air was not safe down there but they did not tell us NIOSH has now linked more than 68 cancers to the World Trade Center toxins and I haven't even had my 20th high school reunion yet but I already have five former classmates with lymphomas that I just know personally my friend Michelle is in remission from thyroid cancer other classmates of mine have been diagnosed with rare bone cancers testicular cancers melanomas there's even a male breast cancer survivor among us as dr. Moline was talking about earlier classmates are also starting to die now just a couple of months ago Kathy Choi who graduated just the year after me passed away at age 33 of a 911 linked gastric cancer her VC award has not been paid yet when it is paid to her husband it will be cut by 50 or 70 percent and that's just my school B MCC students are sick as our students from pace and as our many younger children from the area and beyond cancer plenty of us are already suffering from chronic 9/11 related conditions myself included I'm personally certified with asthma with GERD with chronic rhinosinusitis and with PTSD so these serious illnesses that are emerging now are just the tip of the iceberg if the VFC is allowed to close a lot of my classmates will not find out they're sick in time to make a claim at all and women have special reason to be concerned because most of the research that's been done on 9/11 s health impacts has been done on the responder population which is largely male that means that a lot of women's health issues will not actually be linked to the attacks in time to ever be compensable through the VFC the youngest 9/11 survivors now we live all over the nation and we have you know 70 or 80 years to live with these exposures in the case of the youngest exposed cancer does not respect arbitrary funding deadlines and if the VFC is allowed to reduce payouts and expire this resource that was meant to ease our suffering is going to become just another symbol of how we were sacrificed by a government that thought a quick return to normalcy after a tragic event was more important than the health and safety of the children who lived through it in 2011 and 2015 the government did the right thing and enacted and then reauthorized the Zadroga Act and Congress should do the right thing one more time and fully fund and extend the VFC my friends who get sick in 2027 deserve the same help they would have received if they'd gotten sick in 2017 and so do I thank you thank you miss Nordstrom we've been joined by a number of the firefighters who were worth survivor who are first responders and I want to welcome then and by Congressman max Rose who was a co-sponsor of this of this bill and let me let me just say before I recognize the next witness in response to what mr. Nordstrom just said as I said before they're really two moral responsibilities plenty of people got sick and get sick because of what the terrorists did on 9/11 but plenty of people got sick and will get sick because of what the federal government did in the days following I remember very clearly the EPA administrators saying go back to go back to work let's get things back to normal everything's fine I remember the mayor at the time saying reopen Stuyvesant etc I was calling for stupid parents not to send their kids back to Stuyvesant I was telling people not to go back to Wall Street not to go back to work because it was very evident that it wasn't clear but the federal government bears a heavy moral responsibility for it happened and this bill is only of if we pass it when we pass that I hope a very very small partial repayment for that moral obligation mr. Henry thank you ladies and gentlemen my name is Vanessa Sanchez Henry my husband died a few weeks ago of 9/11 we did had brain cancer my husband candidates was only 52 years old when he died he missed our sons from which was last week and he missed out on a fantastic search for a jacket for him because the one BP we bought was too small and too short so after that we were able to get the jacket so I was for our son and I just missed my husband because we would have a good laugh at that jacket that we defeated him Oh God he was the life for my family it will not be there for my son graduation which would be on the 19th of this month and many other kids his age depart that that loss the parents the parents will not be there for that and also my daughter his only daughter ready anyway we do not know what is that but he will not be there to walk her down the aisle so not so not to have to make that so not going to have do I have to make a place missing present but I have to be worried about whether we will have enough money for our son college and living experience the reason I have two worries because Congress thinks it is okay for my husband's life to be worth at least 70 per– 70% less then what other construction workers have had died off before before coming sick from being at Ground Zero if he died two years ago everything would be okay I feel horrible for those that leave I feel horrible for those that will die three years from now because of the family as well I feel horrible for those who will die two years from now because of the family will not get nothing kindness was a construction worker and a proud man husband father son he wanted to he went to work every day when he was assigned to Gwang zero he was also a proud American his job at Gong zero was to wash the dust and debris from the trucks before they left for the cob and to make sure everything was secure nothing was taken out they wanted they wanted to be sure human remains were not going to fall off the trucks on the way to the brigade Bhagat what his job what his job man may not song glorious he was proud of it and proud to say he worked at growing zero zero and he worked every day as a construction laborer and here's our family we are not rich and we live from paycheck to paycheck already some sort of credit card bills although he lived on through in 2002 15 years later Gong hero came back to him canoe cannabis was a day but that was diagnosed with glioblastoma and a reverend cancer we were taught it was extremely rare we then learned that there are many 911 responses with the same cancer customized the dead a death sentence in which it took three years and it took two years and it took three years it eventually killed considers it took his mind a few months before his death and while he took care of him for the last few months we was he was already gone my son would come home from school and my daughter from work and would say hi dad and there was only a glaze and sometimes there was nothing he only wanted to talk to his dad about his day and that was gone when Caritas got sick that ended the paycheck and benefit thankfully the World Trade Center Health Program pick up all of the expense for his care and treatment there they were wonderful at Quinn's program and we wouldn't have survived without there we were also able to get out to get some help from the VCR and receive an award for his cancer they worked so quickly to get that for us because they knew he was dying thank you for them for that please do not cancel them they are very good they helped us very well but but now for Canada's gone but now that kindness is gone we do not know what is going to happen we do not have life insurance we do not have a pen we do not have a pension for any for a pension or any benefit from his job not even his death benefit regardless our only hope was the VFC and now we do not know if there will be much from them now because he died after February 2nd which was also his birthday 2009 we will get at least 70% less than others that die sooner my husband was a proud man and never looked down on others or for that he was better or his life was worth more than that but I can tell you that his life is not worth less than anyone else and I knew my husband would be proud to be here in person than I talking to him because we should have to recognize these people not work doing that because you are more important than anything else you were the one who pick up everything else and now that he is gone we do not know what we are going to do without him thank you everyone thank you miss st. Rose Henry and let me say that we are here today to help make sure that Congress does not think it's okay that your husband's life is worth 70 % less than other construction workers aren't than anyone elses I thank you for your testimony I will help in that goal mr. mo-mo Nell good morning mr. chairman and members of the committee thank you for allowing me to testify today my name is Thomas Monell and I began my career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation On January 3rd 1980 and retired on May 30th 2010 as a supervisory special agent explosive and hazardous device examiner in explosives unit of the FBI laboratory in the moments after the Pentagon was attacked I became what is known as a 9/11 first responder just like others sitting with me today we did our job and we did it well beyond 100 we did everything we could do to rescue those that were trapped and we did everything we could to find those who are missing so their families could have the closure that they desperately needed like everyone else here today and all other first responders I will never forget 9/11 and I always knew it would be with me what I didn't know was what that would mean some 15 years later to me in my family on 9/11 I was working FBI headquarters in Washington DC and after the second plane hit the World Trade Center I was directed to go to New York City in response to the FBI laboratory I departed headquarters and route to my residence in Manassas Virginia and I was traveling on i-395 south when I was directly across from the Pentagon in stop traffic at approximately 9:30 7:00 a.m. I witnessed American Airlines flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon I immediately notified our headquarters that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon and immediately responded to the crash site and started lending assistance to victims in the area FBI agents and members of the evidence response teams from Washington field office began arriving very quickly fully aware that the life-saving and investigative activities that they would undertake in response to this terrorist attack could put their lives in danger evidence response teams from Baltimore Richmond Norfolk Charlotte and Atlanta also deployed to the Pentagon on August 4th I was diagnosed with follicular non-hodgkins lymphoma I was certified by the World Trade Center Health Program and received excellent care and regular physicals through that excellent program I am here today to ask Congress why they believe that my life is not worth the same as those that became sick before me and how my life could be worth more than those that will most certainly become ill after me it doesn't care who you are what you did or when you did it the guidelines are fair and based on the exposure in your illness then the compensation is based on the economic loss and of that particular illness the Special Master over the years has done a great job on managing a program fairly and equally in the face of illness death and despair now because so many people are becoming sick and the funds are running out the Special Master is being forced to look at cases through different lenses based on when the forms were filed that means that our lives and illness now have a different value in meetings I've had the pleasure to come to the Capitol on several occasions now with the field good foundation to walk the halls of Congress to ask for support for the 911 first responders in the Victim Compensation Fund I have learned that every member in Congress have praised the work of first responders in the 911 first responders I've learned that on September 11th every member of Congress pauses in remembrance of those that were lost that day and those that we will continue to lose I have also learned that every member of Congress promises to never forget I am here to support our colleagues that have become sick in the past and those who will become sick in the future there are people in this room right now that will become sick from their 9/11 exposure and die their families will need the support beyond the wards never forget Congress has the ability to fix this problem nearly every FBI evidence response team in the country deployed to one of the attack sites to sift through thousands of contaminated debris looking for any shred of evidence they may lend assistance in this investigation passport fragments were found of the hijackers to include the knives that were actually used in the attacks were recovered from crash sites this shows the extreme dedication the workers had while sifting through contaminated debris knowing all along that this could possibly affect their health many thousands of Americans first responders firefighters police officers and volunteers have been diagnosed with severe health conditions including cancer in the wake of the attacks knowing the type of individuals that sacrifice their health and in many cases their lives they would all do the same job all over again for this country this is a nationwide issue and it must be fixed by our leaders in Congress together as there are no state lines for a 911 illness thank you for your time thank you mr. O'Connell good morning lieutenant O'Connell my name is Michael O'Connell and I'm retired lieutenant from the New York City Fire Department I want to personally thank chairman Adler ranking member Collins and the committee members for allowing me to be here today at this hearing to tell my story which is really no different from the thousands of others who suffer from their heroic actions today I could say thank you to the countless selfless heroes volunteers survivors and those affected at the three terrorist sites because I get the best health care treatment and I've been compensated by the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund I was just the 25 year old probationary firefighter on that beautiful Tuesday morning of the 11th without a clue as to what was happening I had just transferred from the NYPD in May of 2001 was not even graduated from the FDNY fire academy on that horrific day when the towers were struck I was home on Long Island and immediately raced into Latta 129 in Flushing Queens where I was doing my field training with the minutes of my arrival we started to respond to lower Manhattan during our response I was we were notified of the collapse of the South Tower of the World Trade Center and a fellow firefighter turned to me and said do you realize how many guys we just lost the truth was I didn't have a clue but I would learn quickly upon arrival we went to work right away in the war zone later known as Ground Zero we were given many tasks and tried our best to search for human life but unfortunately we weren't very successful countless hours we spent digging by hand this day there is really only one memory etched into my brain and one that still wants me to this to this day and every night as firefighters we West Scott packs that are equipped with pass alums pass alarms are meant to go off when a firefighter is lay motionless making a screeching sound so you can find them well for the first few minutes of our arrival and the countless hours that passed that's all we heard that was our brothers trapped beneath the pile of concrete and steel and we cannot get to them is a difficult memory but one that keeps me going it reminds me that those men and women who gave their lives that day was selfless and I try my best to live my life to that standard every day in the midst of the chaos and loss of life I can tell you that there are there's another thought that I had I would not want to be anywhere else in the world at that moment we were there to help and I was part of something that showed the world that we would not back down to anyone we helped bring closure to families that just wanted something tangible some part that remained to bury now what is your turn you were not there on the pile with us but what you do in this moment is as important as what we did at Ground Zero a the I had worked the pile for days and weeks that filed that followed with very little protection in the dust cloud and I would later pay the ultimate price the change came on January 1st of 2007 when I woke up and instantly knew something was wrong I couldn't get out of bed and it felt like somebody came into the room that night and beat me up with a baseball bat my ankles my legs my feet was so swollen it made it difficult to even walk to the car to get to the doctor I was put through a series of tests and from what the doctors had seen the prognosis did not look good my wife Rebecca who was six months pregnant with our first child was escorted to a conference room with a team of doctors waited for us to give us the news and told us that this looked like an advanced case of lymphoma that I'm most likely didn't have much time to live at this point all I wanted to do was make it long enough to see the birth of my first child it's obvious since I'm testifying here today and by the grace of God I'm able to be here to tell my story I'm a proud father of three beautiful children named Aiden Colton and Alexandra all of which witness their father battle 9/11 illnesses from the time they were born I was very fortunate that the original prognosis was wrong I was actually diagnosed with the rare autoimmune disease called sarcoidosis I was one of the youngest and first five is dark diagnosed with sarcoid but hundreds more of been diagnosed since I spent the few the next few months in recovery and with the proper treatments I was able to get back on my feet say Lee I cannot say that about others my career in the FDNY that I was so passionate about was cut short and 9/11 ensured I would be unable to continue as a full duty firefighter as I was deemed disabled I was on pace to advance through the FDNY as a senior officer but I wasn't able to finish that dream of protecting the greatest city in the world I ask you all respectfully how is it fair that I was duly compensated but others that are now sick and dying from their exposure will not be it seems unfair that I was lucky enough to get sick but well lucky that I got sick early enough so that I could avoid potential cut or worse having no vfc as of December 2020 how is my fight my family financially safe for a lifetime but the families of those not diagnosed all left hanging these people are getting sick 18 years later and are not going to receive the same benefits as those who got sick before them because they are on unlucky to get sick at a time when the VFC is running out of funds I speak today in tribute to the 343 firefighters the 23 NYPD and the 37 Port Authority police officers that didn't make it out on September 11 2001 and to the thousands were still sick and who are dying especially for my brother ray Pfeiffer from the FDNY who is no longer with us I promised myself to keep fighting for my family and for those who are sick or have passed and yet to be compensated because one day I might not be here to tell my story but there will be someone else to follow and continue the key tradition a tradition that is rich in history and a tradition when no one is left behind in closing I have made countless trips to the hill with the men and women who sit behind me we came together to join forces on the field good foundation team from all walks of life cops firefighters construction workers correction officers civilians lawyers students widows with one common goal we are simply employing this committee to extend the fund the VCF so that thousands of people across this great nation get the help that they deserve and they have earned thank you for your time today chairman ranking members in the committee god bless you god bless all those sitting behind me and god bless america thank you very much lieutenant detective Alvarez good morning ladies and gentlemen my name is Luis Alvarez and I'm a retired NYPD detective from the bomb squad and a proud military veteran less than 24 hours from now I will be starting my 69th round of chemotherapy yeah you heard that correct I should not be here with you but you made me come you made me come because I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer 9/11 like me or valued less than anyone else because of when they get sick they died I have been lucky enough to have had 68 rounds of chemo yeah you you heard me right 68 rounds many others haven't had the opportunity to have five and some have had none their families would love to have time with them that made mine have time with me because I have been lucky enough to have the pain and suffering of 69 rounds of chemo and countless other treatments and surgeries it is my goal and it is my legacy to see that you do the right thing for all 97 911 responders please understand that we are not here for anything for ourselves we became police officers firefighters paramedics to help others we want the Ground Zero the Pentagon and Shanksville to help people first and then help their families bury someone or something we were there with one mission and we left after completing that mission I have been to many places in this world and done many things but I can tell you that I did not want to be anywhere else but Ground Zero when I was there we were part of showing the world that we would never back down from terrorism and that we could all work together no races no colors no politics now that the 9/11 illnesses have taken many of us and we are all worried about our children and spouses and our families if we are not here the vs the VFC has done a wonderful job and treated my family with greatest respect but my life isn't worth more than the next responder to get cancer my family needs are not worth less than any others who have already died this fund is not a ticket to paradise it is there to provide for our families one weekend nothing more you all said you would never forget well I'm here to make sure that you don't you made me come down here the day before my 69th round of chemo and I'm going to make sure that you never forget to take care of the 911 responders thank you for your time [Applause] [Applause] Thank You detective Alvarez mr. Stewart I want to thank mr. Collins mr. Naylor for putting this together but as I sit here today I can't help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to behind me a filled room of 911 first responders and in front of me a nearly empty Congress sick and dying they brought themselves down here to speak to no one it's shameful it's an embarrassment to the country and it is a stain on this institution and you should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren't here but you won't be because accountability doesn't appear to be something that occurs in this chamber we don't want to be here loo doesn't want to be here none of these people want to be here but they are and they're not here for themselves they're here to continue fighting for what's right who's gonna go back for 69th chemo the great ray Pfeiffer would come down here his body riddled with cancer and pain where he couldn't walk and the disrespect shown to him and to the other lobbyists on this bill is utterly unacceptable you know I used to get I would be so angry at the latest injustice that's done to these men and women and you know another business card thrown our way as a way of shooing us away like children trick-or-treating rather than the heroes that they are and will always be ray would say calm down Johnny calm down I got all the cards I need and he would tap his pocket where he kept the prayer cards 343 firefighters the official FDNY response time to 911 was five seconds five seconds that's how long it took for FDNY for NYPD for Port Authority for EMS to respond to an urgent need from the public five seconds hundreds died in an instant thousands more poured in to continue to fight for their brothers and sisters the breathing problem started almost immediately and they were told they weren't sick they were crazy and then as the illnesses got worse and things became more apparent well okay you're sick but it's not from the pile and then when the science became irrefutable okay it's the pile but this is a New York issue I don't know if we have the and I'm sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic but I'm angry and you should be too and they're all angry as well and they have every justification to be that way there is not a person here there is not an empty chair on that stage that didn't tweet out never forget the heroes of 9/11 never forget their bravery never forget what they did what they gave to this country well here they are and where are they and it would be one thing if they are callous indifference and rank hypocrisy were benign but it's not your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity time so one thing they're running out of this should be flipped this hearing should be flipped these men and women should be up on that stage and Congress should be down here answering their questions as to why this is so damn hard and takes so damn long and why no matter what they get something's always pulled back and they got to come back mr. Johnson you made a point earlier and it was one that we have heard over and over again in these halls and I couldn't help but to answer to it which was he said look you know you guys are obviously heroes and 9/11 was a big deal but you know we have a lot of stuff here to do and you know we got to make sure there's money for a variety of disasters hurricanes and tornadoes but this wasn't a hurricane and this wasn't a tornado and by the way that's your job anyway we can't fund these programs you can setting aside that no American in this country should face financial ruin because of a health issue certainly 9/11 first responders shouldn't have to decide whether to live or to have a place to live and the idea that you can only give them five more years of the VFC because you're not quite sure what's gonna happen five years from now well I can tell you I'm pretty sure what's gonna happen five years from now more of these men and women are gonna get sick and they are going to die and I am awfully tired of hearing that it's a 9/11 New York issue al Qaeda didn't shout death to Tribeca they attacked America and these men and women and their response to it is what brought our country back it's what gave a reeling nation a solid foundation to stand back upon to remind us of why this country is great of why this country is worth fighting for and you are ignoring them and you can end it tomorrow why this bill isn't unanimous consent and a standalone issue is beyond my comprehension and I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation for why it'll get stuck in some transportation bill or some appropriations bill and get sent over to the Senate where a certain someone from the Senate will use it as a political football to get themselves maybe another new import tax on petroleum because that's what happened to us in 2015 and we won't allow it to happen again thank God for people like John feel thank God for people like Ray Pfeiffer thank God for all of these people who will not let it happen they responded in five seconds they did their jobs with courage grace tenacity humility eighteen years later do yours thank you [Applause] thank you Thank You mr. Stewart will now proceed under the five-minute rule with questions I'll begin by recognizing myself for five minutes miss Bennett chharia what are some of the factors that have led to the increase in the number of claims of the VFC has seen over the last year and how should these factors inform Congress's decision making as it determines how best whether and how best to reauthorize the VFC Thank You mr. chairman I appreciate the question there have been I think four major changes in the VFC over the last few years from what Congress saw when it last we authorized this bill in 2015 and allocated the seven point three seven five billion dollars the first is that the total number of claims that have been filed has increased significantly in the first five years of the fund from 2011 to 2016 we had just over 19,000 compensation forms filed in the last two and a half years we've received 28,000 more and the reasons for those I think are three the first is that there is a significant increase in the number of claims being filed on behalf of victims who have died as a result of their 9/11 related conditions as we get further away from the attacks but as the seriousness of the illnesses become more apparent we see more and more of these claims at the end of 2015 we had just 600 deceased claims we now have well over 2,000 of them the second thing is that the number of claimants with cancer conditions continues to increase we have found over 8,800 claimants eligible because of a cancer condition and we have made over 7500 awards due to cancers in 2015 we had seen only a fraction of that number and the third is that we are seeing a substantial increase in claims filed by the survivor community those who lived worked or went to school in the area in the first five years of the program viral claims were just 14% of the awards that were made now they account for almost 40% of the claims that are being filed and we think that's due to two things the first are the increase in cancer rates and the second is that the VCF suffered from a significant information gap in the early years of the program many many people in the New York area were under the assumption that the program was only for first responders and as we have been able to do more outreach as the World Trade Center Health Program has been able to do more outreach partly because of the reauthorization of the bill in 2015 we have been able to reach more people who are sick more people who are dying and those claims are now coming in thank you and in your written testimony you note that in determining the amount of non-economic loss for a claimant collateral offsets must be subtracted and full from any reduced award amount in light of this is it possible that some claimants may in fact end up with no money despite the fact that they are legally entitled to money from the VCF so yes congressman that is possible thank you dr. Moline how many more people do you think could be at risk of developing 911 related illnesses including cancers in the next 25 to 50 years and is it possible to know the exact number of people who develop illnesses at this point in time it's not possible to know the exact number but based on the rates that are increasing there are going to be 10 to 20,000 more cancers I would estimate into 20,000 more cancers yes most other diseases plus other diseases and as we heard about sarcoidosis which is a fairly rare disease but is common in World Trade Center exposed individuals we're going to see folks who have lung diseases that may require lung transplants there have already been a number of individuals in the World Trade Center health programs that have required lung transplants due to scarring of the lungs from the glass and the concrete and everything else that caused a reaction in their lungs there was an order of magnitude you said what about 3040 thousand maybe you know what it's hard to predict but on the rates and the number of folks that were exposed it that numbers is accurate Thank You mr. Nordstrom well the terrorists who carried out the attacks against the United States and 9/11 they're the ultimate responsibility for all the harms caused by the attacks you know to the federal government's responsibility and heightening the risk to responders and members of the community in the days after the attacks in particular the EPA at the time gave false assurances that the air around Ground Zero was quote safe to breathe assurances for which the then EPA Administrator has since apologized and acknowledged we're wrong as a matter of moral responsibility do you agree that Congress as representatives of the American people should help to give some measure of compensation to victims for the harms they have suffered that were exacerbated by the government's own actions at the time I think they absolutely should I mean I'm sitting before you as someone who was present on 9/11 but I was not caught in the dust clouds there is no reason that my respiratory health or my gastrointestinal health or my you know my my guess that's awesome a respiratory health but there's no reason that that should have been impacted by the events of 9/11 I only have these conditions because I was sent back and I was only sent back because the federal government assured New Yorkers that the air downtown was safe to breathe I was a child at the time I was in no position to make that decision for myself I was not only you know following the sort of wishes of my of the adults in my life but also the wishes of the government which at every level seemed to assure us that we were going to be fine in an environment where we were surrounded by dust and debris and fires would burn for another four months thank you my time has expired mr. Johnson I think miss chairman and thank all of you there are too few issues today that draw everybody in Congress together this is one of them and miss Stewart listen I what you said is exactly right I would not interpret some of the empty chairs as indifference we by virtue of its jurisdiction this is a subcommittee of House Judiciary if it was the full committee you'd have many more members here but because we're a subcommittee sometimes we get that the scheduling gets crossed with they're larger full committee hearings and some of them are there this morning they sent regrets but we're gonna make them all watch this tape because the testimony was so compelling and I've been in politics a while I can't recall being so moved by testimony as I was today I cried through most of this all of us did it's just incomprehensible what the terrorists did to our nation and the harm that it continues to inflict so if it is any comfort to you all we know this bill is going to pass with a overwhelming landslide majority of the house may be unanimous or close to it it should be [Applause] yeah well I will as I said in my opening statement I mean I'm the son of a disabled permanently injured first responder myself my dad was a fire captain and so I get it I know what you've been through and that's why I was so painful to hear your personal stories because I've lived it myself so I get that as I said in the opening remarks just as we do with everything we we want to do the fair and just thing we want to compensate everyone but we also have a fiscal responsibility thing that we have to be mindful of the whole time and that's that's the only question and so I just have one question miss Bhattacharya so the CBO can't give us a score on this they won't we're marking it up tomorrow it's gonna pass committee it'll be I think it's gonna sail through but has your office done any kind of estimate on total cost of what this will be ultimately we've done projections about what we expect the total cost would have been had we not done reduced awards for claims expected to be filed through December 18th 2020 which is the current sunset date we believe that we would need about 12 billion dollars to compensate all of the claims expected to be filed by that date which is about five billion more than we currently have we have not done any projections beyond that closing date sure yeah I just want to say CBO is scoring the bill they are they are scoring we don't know and they don't know when they'll have a score but they are struggling it'll be after the fact well that's why I don't know how to do this but can I add to that O'Neill too sure if I may sure thank you for yielding yeah John we have to I bend a knee to you you know when we talk about the price the attacks on 9/11 have been used in our government to justify all measure of policy and spending to the tune of trillions of dollars just recently there was a farm bill that was twenty five billion dollars that helps farmers that are in need based on policies that are beyond their control and and I believe our government should do that this is less than half of that a third of that there was a corporate tax cut that was made by our Congress and so it's very difficult for us to hear jeez I don't know you know we're we're tight we're tight on money right now you know it's a little cool because it's hard for me to understand that Exxon has a more urgent need than our first responder community know nobody believes that job but it's when you talk about fiscal responsibility you talk about priorities and priorities mean actions and not deeds and the priority of words from this Congress is always that character and patriotism are the priority and that we all must be willing to pay the price of freedom this is the price and when we show up with the bill you cannot take a proverbial me no you're right look I got 30 seconds left let me reclaim the time as s what we do in a sorry I agree with you and I'm telling you that the action is going to follow the rhetoric and you're gonna get it from virtually no you're right you shouldn't have to be here you should not have to be here the only question is if we authorize it to 2090 do we have any idea what that's gonna cost just because we need to know because we're doing budgeting not because it's not the top priority and should be John we're just saying to be good fiscal stewards of all this do we even have a an idea what that ultimate number may be and I'll leave it we'll just that's a fine question the problem is I think as dr. Molina has described is there's there's no way for us to know how many people were exposed CBO originally estimated somewhere between 685 and 500,000 people and there's no way for us to know how many of those exposed will actually get sick partly because of the latency periods associated with cancer and so unfortunately we have not been able to make those projections beyond December 18 2020 just want to say even if it's an done mr. chairman I'm out of time but even if it's an astronomical number it is a responsibility again we know that the question is can we just figure out what that number is and that's it no you I'm out of time thank you let me I think the general field to make let me just point out on time I will assume the terrorists declared war on us when we declare war on somebody whether it's Japan in 1941 or al-qaeda now we don't have a cost estimate we don't have a time estimate we don't have a cost estimate we just say we have to do it and we'll have some sort of course that's I mean it may not be accurate who knows I mean when you're talking about but this is part of a war that was declared on us and we have to do it and the course estimate may follow may not it's probably CBO will guess they will give us a course it'll be a pure guess I don't know how accurate that'll be they don't know either but it doesn't matter this is part of a war and it's part of a something we have to do and we'll do it the gentleman from Tennessee the chairman of the subcommittee mr. Cohen Thank You mr. chair I appreciate each and every one of you who have worked on this issue and worked at 9/11 your testimony mr. Alvarez Lieutenant McConnell everybody here has been touching it's told a story it will be explained to me and to the public through the media and through word-of-mouth this is an American tragedy it was an attack on America and you did your jobs thank you the New York Fire Department is an institution I think we all in America hold in high regard in yfd hats are everywhere it was people respect what the fire department did going into those towers who sacrificed their lives and continuing to go through the debris and look for survivors so it will be done mr. Johnson well expressed the fact that we'll pass this bill and we will get it done I'm going to defend an institution that is sometimes not easy to defend but is the bulwark of democracy and that's the United States Congress and the United States Congress is a good body that represents people in their districts and comes together it doesn't always come together and express itself in policies that I agree with and I don't get everything I want but you get something you work together this is a subcommittee of a committee my subcommittee every single member on my side which is eight of us have been here today some like Miss Garcia said I have a financial services committee we have other committees at the same time some members are in their offices visiting with constituents or they may be watching on television because this is broadcast but the subcommittee is only eight members including mr. Nadler who's ex-officio of all the subcommittees from my side and I think five on mr. Johnson side and I know mr. Collins was here and he's a sponsor of the bill our attendance was pretty good all these empty chairs that's because this for the full committee it's not because of disrespect and lack of attention to you that's not true and we will respond and we will see that this is funded now mr. Stewart I appreciate what you've done and what you do and what you said but the Congress will respond in spite of the fact that we spent trillions of dollars on tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest people in this country most many of whom are on the Upper East Side many of whom are living in expensive expensive places and didn't need the tax cut that's where the money should be and there's a lot of money that ought to go into research on diseases and the National Institutes of Health to keep all of us alive that we're not giving because we're spending it on defense projects some of which are not necessary because they're being spent for the producers of the weapons and not to defend America we need budget priorities and budget sense but it comes together in a majority and there is an issue that mr. Johnson raises about fiscal responsibility we gave it away last year we passed that tax bill we gave the upper one half of one percent money's they didn't need people who you were fighting to protect and work for you know I'm not happy with Congress with that bill I voted against it I called it a tax scam and I believe it was but I will work for you and I work for people who have sickness and disease and who fight for others and sacrifice themselves and don't make six-figure salaries because that's we need to look upon people who are just getting from day to day and trying to help others and the police and the fire departments do that and mr. Alvarez thank you so much for being here and God bless you god bless you and I yield back the balance of my time gentleman from Maryland mr. Raskin Thank You mr. chairman the first thing I want to say is that the title of the legislation is never forget the heroes permanent authorization of the 9/11 victim Compensation Fund and I am delighted to be a strong supporter of the legislation a co-sponsor of the legislation and I am especially delighted after hearing the incredibly powerful and poignant testimony of our witnesses today that the word permanent is in there because the people in this room today made a permanent lifelong commitment to the community of America when they went to rescue to help to assist and we need to make a permanent lifelong commitment to the people in this room not five years not ten years but for as long as we have them with us we must be committed to them something that mr. Stewart said reminded me of this essay that I once read by George Orwell who contrasted patriotism and nationalism and he said patriotism is about a true devotion to your community to your neighbors to your friends to your family to the values to your Constitution to the community that's what patriotism is nationalism is just about sinking your individuality into some mythic military hole to go to war against people from other countries and the people in the room today are real patriots and we've got to be patriots too mr. chairman we've got to pass this legislation to demonstrate that we really do take care of our own people and we are really devoted to the community that is America maybe they were victims of misfortune the day that those 18 hijackers most of them Saudis pumped up with religious hatred and extremism and gsella Tory came to attack our country so maybe they were victims of misfortune but if today they're not getting the health care that they need they are not just victims of misfortune they are victims of an injustice perpetrated by our government and life is hard enough on our people with all of the misfortune with the sickness the illness the injury the accident that the government should not be compounding the misfortunes of life with the injustice of denying people the health care that they need and that they should be receiving in the richest society that ever existed at the richest moment that it was ever in existence so we're gonna make this happen MS Nordstrom I want to ask you a question your story is very poignant to me you you're describing what happened to schoolchildren who were sent back to the neighborhood when it was no longer safe and now you described how many of your classmates are coming down with asthma and cancer and fatal diseases and you've already lost some of the and you're I think you described being at your 20th reunion is that right or not even my 20 okay but how how does America wear out is the city keep track of people in your situation who reached out to you I assume that the fire departments and the police departments have a way of communicating with people but who's keeping track of people in your situation that's been incredibly challenging and one of the reasons that this fund closing when it does we'll really be harmful for us is that a lot of people in my situation are not aware that they qualify for these services a lot of the coverage of this of these services gets directed at responders and because of that a lot of survivors especially those outside of the city and we live nationally dispersed I live in California I I I do not live in New York City I haven't for twelve years a lot of us don't have you know local advocates on this issue there's no local press coverage of this issue and so there's a large group of people that may already be sick who just aren't aware that these services are available to them who aren't familiar with how to apply to them we have really had to rely on word of mouth pretty extensively and considering that a lot of the students who were present in lower Manhattan during the cleanup were not actually residents in the neighborhood Stuyvesant has 3,000 students and most of them do not live in lower Manhattan there is a similarly large high school who also doesn't serve a resident population a couple blocks away there are a lot of specialized schools in that area a lot of them do because a lot of people's parents didn't live in the area they weren't even informed about these risks they weren't informed about these services and so we're still doing the work of reaching out to them now one final question this is not a problem that affects only the people in New York there are people who have left New York or other parts of the country but also we weren't just hit in New York we were hit down here in our area at the Pentagon we were hit in Pennsylvania but mr. Stewart let me come to you and so I know you've been such a zealous advocate for the people in the room how do we get all of America to understand this is a national problem this doesn't affect just one isolated community geographically I'm pretty sure all of America does understand that I think our problem has been with the part of America that represents America our problem has been with the Congress and not with the American people it's not like the support for this community isn't out there our problem has been that there are oftentimes just a lot of excuses look it takes an incredible amount of effort from these men and women to come down here I've been at this for 10 years with them John feels been at it for I don't know 14 and they're and they're down here hundreds of times spending thousands of hours it's not hard to convince the American people that this is a no-brainer and a worthy cause our problem has been in these chambers and I'm sorry that it's not meant as an attack on the grand institution of democracy it's meant as a dumbfounded shrug of I can't understand why this has been so hard and why every time we take one step forward something gets withheld we've been to too many funerals man too many hospitals too many hospices and it's going to keep going and I think we're just at the end of the rope thank you for your advocacy mr. Chairman I yield back and I excuse myself only to go to the floor of the house to introduce legislation thank you I think the gentleman the gentlelady from Pennsylvania Miskin 'ln okay before I begin I want to say thank you to all of the witnesses thank you for being here thank you for sharing your stories I also want to say that I'm sorry not just for the loss and the grief that you've endured and and those are obviously profound but I'm sorry that you have to be here again to plead your case to reauthorize the Victims Compensation Fund a decision that as mr. Stewart says should be a no-brainer I've this case is or this cause is close to my heart I've followed it over the years for a couple reasons my father-in-law read Stewart was a volunteer firefighter in New Jersey for over fifty years my brother-in-law is a medic and a lieutenant in a Rhode Island Fire Department I've got several other office our relatives who are sworn police officers and while I'm not a New Yorker as a resident of southeastern Pennsylvania when the terrorist acts on 9/11 occurred it felt a little bit like we were in the eye of a hurricane because things were unfolding to the north of us to New York to the south of us in DC and to the west of us in Shanksville and friends neighbors and relatives were impacted whether because they were at one of those sites or because they lost loved ones but the shock and horror of those events were really surpassed by the bravery grace and humanity of the first responders many of whom were here some of whom we lost and everyday Americans as they responded to that tragedy so it's that humanity that demands that Congress addressed this issue once and for all and that's why I'm a Koch proud co-sponsor of the bill as a new member of Congress one who ran because of anger over why things that seem so obvious aren't getting done I I hear you and and I look forward to swift passage of permanent reauthorization of this bill just a couple quick questions lieutenant O'Connell you've already received your award from the VFC why are you here to testify today about this I'm here because I did receive my award and I've seen people fall sick and died right in front of me that happen I believe we lost about 20-something people last month that their families we have to sit there in front of him somebody who actually has a wife and three children home knowing that they're taken care of and I'm looking at somebody else's wife and children and they don't know where their future lies and that's why I'm here and that's the common humanity that says we should pass this thank you I yield back thank the gentlelady the gin the other gentlelady from Pennsylvania miss Dean Thank You mr. chairman I'm pleased to be here today as heartbreaking as the stories are and please understand that I too am a new member of Congress I too am baffled that we're even having this conversation or that we force you to come here and and share your heartbreak some of you not well struggling for your own health so don't misinterpret if you see people coming in and out of here some of us have other hearings we're just trying to balance and do the work of both do not misinterpret that we do not care we care we think this is a grievous wrong that you have to come and ask for reauthorization it's an absolute insane grievous wrong and we get it in this new majority I believe will take action I wanted to start with Ms Henry I think you are joined by your children behind you I see the heartbreak in them and the pictures they carry and I I have to tell you I was so touched by the way you talked about your husband and how proud he was of his work isn't that what it's all about proud American work cleaning trucks you said may be a simple task but not so simple at all and he gave of himself all of himself can you tell us how your family will be impacted if you should receive only a 30% award for his loss well my son is just just an idiot after his father passed away he was not there to see Satan build a college right now to be to be played for him we have a de bill that and our mortgage has to be period understand now if he was the breadwinner for the family right now I have to stand in that in that position where whatever you has coming home with now we do not have it what the little I'm making I have to be careful how I spent it now and make ends meet for our family yes and I keep thinking of what the Special Master has to go through to try to slice this up and try to be as equitable as possible it should not be that way at all and again thank you for your family ms Nordstrom I think your testimonies particularly compelling can you describe more about what notices you were given even as young students or your parents were given or your teachers were given about the the status of the health in your school once we were already back at the school we received a number of sort of cryptic warnings we started to get notes home that said don't drink out of the water fountain and we were suddenly not allowed to leave the building for lunch which was a privilege that we had enjoyed before that and for some reason it was supposed to be okay that we walked to and from the subway in that same air but apparently eating lunch was not going to be safe and as soon as we were back a sort of contentious discussion broke out about whether we should be there or not but you know we were not we didn't really have any agency in that discussion that was obviously discussion that was happening between government officials parents and teachers at the school and so we sort of witnessed a lot of information come out late in the game after the parents administration started to investigate things that's you know the parents administration is who discovered that the air quality at the barge was as bad as the air at Ground Zero in many days it was the parents Association that discovered that the carpeting and upholstery in our cafeteria I mean in our auditorium was contaminated and it was the with the Parents Association that pushed the Board of Education to finally replace the filters in our ventilation system that was something that was supposed to be done before we went back and did not get done but all of that took months to unfold so by the end of the year it was pretty clear that we should have never been there but we never really received that information at a point where we could have acted on it certainly if the you know if the the sort of government officials charged with our care had been honest about the situation I think it would have been appropriate to remove us from the premises but no decision like that ever got made instead just these small steps where they were gonna hose down the debris and then you know they were gonna replace the carpeting in the theater but not the seats and small steps like that got made but nothing substantial got made and so we just kind of at the end of the year looked back and realized oh god we shouldn't have been here sounds like malpractice to me that you would have been allowed to be educated there and then mr. Alvarez I wish I could talk to all of you my time is limited but mr. Alvarez I just wanted to offer you my thoughts prayers and the strength that you show it's extraordinary you represent this audience filled with first responders and volunteers and I was impressed by you saying you didn't want anything for yourselves you just wanted to do the work and help others yes I guess can you just tell me other than obvious provide full funding what else would you like us to know I'll just close with saying may we be guided by your selflessness Thank You mr. chairman I yield back thank you the gentlelady from Texas mr. Jackson Lee well she'll I thank the gentleman who just came into the room its chairman thank you very much and to mr. : thank you to the ranking member I was here on 9/11 and I'm reminded of the immediate work of Jerry Nadler and Carol Maloney and Peter King a recollection is that I stood with them in the first introduction along with their Senators but I was also here on the day of the incident frankly in the United States Capitol no one knew what was going on all we heard was screaming and banging on the door you needed to get out what a small experience compared to those of you in this room as we fled as members out of the Capitol no one had any information no blackberries existed flip phones did not work and as we escaped shoes falling off we could see the billowing smoke from the Pentagon the plane had hit rumors abounded it's going to hit the White House the State Department and the United States Capitol certainly in that instance first responders that we had the Capitol Police trying to shuttle members and leadership and then the stories began to come even here in Washington you wondered where your staff were whether the buildings were getting ready to be hit if anyone can self contain those experiences just a slight memory this should be nothing or but clean sailing of this legislation out of the house and my belief make it a suspension what does that mean it goes to the floor and you pass it immediately then it goes to the Senate and there's no procedural tomfoolery you pass it they can pass it on unanimous consent and then it goes to the President of the United States and all he has to do is sign that bill to give life to people who are in need I don't see why that cannot be our process as I remember the United States Congress during that time I desired greatly in the midst to get to Ground Zero the time that I went flights were not active and we took the train and we actually got on the ground I would never make the point that I was there during rescue I was there during recovery and during that time I watched with my own eyes men go in and out and in and out finding remains finding loved ones finding their fellow comrades I think you know I was there they blew a whistle and they would come with the gurney it was Stan in silence and they would take those remains as they did so you could still see in pockets the smoke and debris the only one is say in this instance that I see no reason for us to stop on this time we need to move let me ask the Special Master in the short time that I have in the claims that you've had in the overwhelming that you've seen can you tell me whether there is any tomfoolery with those who have come to apply should we be concerned about the knee should we question the lieutenant or the FBI director or the mother and wife that is grieving should we question any of those should we look to mr. Alvarez and be concerned about anything that he's gone through that is not real are you facing the devastation of having to say no to people who are in need Special Master Thank You congresswoman the VFC under this ajaja Act has not documented any instance of fraud in a paid claim we have very robust standards and procedures in place obviously as a component the Justice Department we take fraud very seriously we work very closely with our Inspector General's Office to investigate any suspicion of fraud and we have numerous internal procedures in place including independent data verification with federal state and local entities to provide independent third party verification of the data that we receive but we have never documented any instance of fraud and a paid claim I'm an original co-sponsor of this bill I want to thank the proponents as I've said I think that is important to put on the record Jon Stewart thank you I've watched you over the decades and all I suggest pass the bill pass it out of the Senate give the money and never let these people look one moment to see that they are not great Americans and Patriots and they deserve to be honored let's do it now I yield back Thank You gentlelady [Applause] gentleman from Virginia mr. Klein Thank You mr. chairman and thank you for championing this legislation I want to thank all of our witnesses for being here for everyone in the audience who is here to advocate for this legislation it's an important bill I see some familiar faces in the audience who came to visit me about a month ago to talk about this bill to educate me as they've been educating all members about the importance of continuing this important fund and and providing for these heroes who are are here and home and and the families of those who serve their country not just on September 11th but in the days weeks months years following that that fateful day and I want to thank the gentlelady has come for her comments because I I recall that day well because I too was in this building as a staffer and we weren't rushed to a safe room by the Capitol Police as some of the members were we were given guidance to get your staff out I was a chief of staff and we were told and get him out so we however we needed to walk run we evacuated not knowing what was going on but seeing the smoke coming from the Pentagon there was talk of a bomb at the State Department there was talk of more planes in the sky and we don't know where flight 93 was headed but we know was headed in this direction and for the heroes who were took action that day and and said let's roll hmm we are eternally grateful for their heroism and for those who in the 18 years since the tens and thousands tens of thousands of men and women first responders relief workers local residents whose testimony was so moving and I read it last night but to hear it in person in this Henry you're I know that was very hard for you to to articulate just how important this bill is to you and your family but it's it's definitely had an impact and it has an impact from my district as well we have 29 from the sixth District of Virginia who are on the list of having benefited from this fund we have to make sure that not only every year on September 11th that we never forget but every day we owe it to the men and women here we owe it to the men and women who sacrifice sacrificed on that day and in the weeks after to renew this fund so I appreciate all the hard work your education had an impact on me not just because of my experiences on 9/11 but also in learning about your stories learning about the stories of each and every first responder each and every construction worker miss Henry your husband and that's why I'm glad to be a co-sponsor of the bill miss Henry you you spoke of your husband's pride in his work the job that he was doing he knew he was a part of something bigger of something that was a moment in our nation's history that will never be forgotten and and I know that he he brought that home with him at the end of his day can you speak to that pride with which he did his job I know my husband God worked with local since the Indians came over there I don't think we didn't have anything in our mind that he would all the debris and all these things was out there that he would cut we would get that he went to work he went to his pride I remember my son Justin been almost almost to almost one yeah all and you let me sit in the back of the van every Saturday morning with drop him at work and then about two three o'clock we'd go back and pick him up was on a Saturday I don't work so it was my pleasure to take him down there and he he was happy to work there and I'm telling you I had the badge that pad she had when they gave you to enter that building he never free to me he warned unto that but he said as his memory for anybody talk about 9/11 he has got to tell them yes I did work at 9/11 I wish I had heard that bad she show it to you right now under the buzzer badge we had that's a pass not about a pass he had to scan that and walk in and this is the the the past that we have that reminded us and my husband going through all his sickness we never thought that it was 9/11 until we met dr. dimopoulos from North Shore Hospital that when the refers to him and in talking to him he said that's all right the what you husband how did he woke up 9/11 and then he came to my he said my husband said no because he didn't remember but going back into his pile of papers and stuff here comes the back he's fast and like oh my god he did was there and then we brought that up and that's how we spoke to Matt and Matt harvest right here and I'm telephone I didn t see any still with us to help us because my kids they miss their dad so much his only daughter we don't know she's going to walk down the aisle one day what am I going to do maybe just Eagle kingdon he's all the son Kendall he's not here with us who does what to step in for the father stepped in as a father and and my family whose cabin Tina's father this morning we woke up we can be drive up last night all the good was talked about and if he was there he's our navigator we don't need a navigator anywhere we go he knows McCallum McClure right and we would be yeah we went to Canada we went to Georgia for the first time and we were like we don't know where we and he said don't worry make a left nickel right there's a circle in Georgia we keep going to Academy we're going to circle take the first ride take the first step and that's what it is sightseeing when I saw them when you would say get them get up and up wake up wake up let's go out what are we going to anyway just just jump in the car we just leave that's how we discover Pennsylvania that's how we we came to women to different places and we miss that right now we we wants to go out but it is so much in our memory driving up last night was not an easy task it was not easy and I'm so happy that he have Justin – Justin just got his driver's license he was the one who showed him some of the shots although one day he did it he tell Justin follow the police car and as Justin was Oh Justin realized I'm following the police car and I'm going to somewhere just in checking 7dl we still all laughing you don't have a memory anymore you making Justin followed a car going to the wrong direction and we had a good laugh at it so coming up last night Justin his Drive and I'm be just thinking if daddy was there with Teddy mikhalev overtake this car take this night soon and the police is done to catch you he said no dad would tell me to stop the police is down there so it's we really miss him I my phone my husband did enjoy working at the strong zero hehe that was his practice and everybody I did work hard from ground zero I know what it's like so we really really really really miss it thank you very much I hope that we can pass this bill I appreciate everyone for their testimony today I'm sorry I wasn't here for each and every one of your testimony I have another hearing and education and labor and so we're back and forth but to each and every one of you who was here I appreciate your testimony and for all the work you've done let's pass this bill thank you recognize the gentlelady from Texas for unanimous consent request yes mr. chairman thank you first of all these are all good people and I think they're all going to be committed to you I wanted to ask unanimous consent to put in the record an article that said officials demand permanent funding for 9/11 Victims Compensation to stem escalating crisis and I think we hear your cry and we're going to listen and amundsen that objection the document will be placed in the record this concludes today's hearing I want to remind people that tomorrow let me I want to remind people at tomorrow in this room we'll have a much we'll have a full committee meeting for the purpose of marking up and reporting to the House floor this bill tomorrow we will move the bill to the floor tomorrow we will get this done as quickly as possible but I do think we will get it done I want to thank our witnesses I want to thank all the first responders and others for attending and for all the work that you've done over the years and for your sacrifices without objection all members will have five legislative days to submit additional written questions for the witnesses or additional materials for the record without objection the hearing is adjourned you

5 thoughts on “The Need to Reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund

  • Deonna Kamradt

    Chicken little CoHEN Don't forget the Immigration Laws , that make sense, so use your common sense, and get the job done. This would be for all of you on the left! Keep Trump out of your sick comments. So while you are trying to fix another mishap, get the Immigration loopholes filled!!! It just makes sense to change the stupid laws we have now. Think about it, our country is at risk knowingly!!! Please do the right thing. Thank you for the 911 VCF .

  • L

    Rep. Cohen says to these 9/11 first responders, “you all need to be compensated for what you did”. Rep. Cohen said to FBI agent Peter Strzok, “you deserve a Purple Heart”… that cold friend chicken eating, skullet adorned, Memphis ruining clown is a sad embarrassment to this nation.

  • James C

    Watching John Stewart does make me wonder if all of Congress has the ability to watch different hearings of their choice from the comfort of their House and Senate offices?

  • James C

    Chairman Cohen's opening statement begins at ~ 17:16 @~21:26 Support Bill H.R . 1327 The Never Forget the Heroes -The Permanent Authorization of September 11th Victim's Compensation Fund Act would authorize the VCF until 2090. @~ 41:57 Rep.Maloney Author of H.R.1327. @~ 48:36 Rep. Peter King @~58:55 2nd panel of witnesses including John Stewart and Special Master of the VCF for 9/11 victims.

  • Kevin O'Brien

    21:20 Mr. Cohen mentions H.R.1327 – Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act
    https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1327

    You know, before he exits.

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