Many 9/11 first responders still fighting for health benefits 21 years later – InsuranceNewsNet

Thousands of first responders and workers who suffered health problems as a result of the September 11, 2001terrorists are still fighting for health benefits and facing a critical funding shortfall in a program designed to benefit them.

“The 20 years since 9/11 have decimated the responder community. The next 20 years will eradicate 9/11 responders,” said John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundationan advocacy group for 9/11 responders and survivors, Fox News Digital told Fox News Digital.

Feal, a retired construction worker who lost part of his foot while working at Ground Zero following the attacks, founded the FealGood Foundation for the benefit of responders who suffered numerous health problems related to the fallout from the attacks.

The organization organized numerous demonstrations on American parliament and pressured lawmakers to act, winning a victory with the World Trade Center health program that Congress approved in 2015.

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The bill pays for the medical bills of first responders, many of whom have suffered respiratory illnesses, digestive disorders and cancers as a result of their exposure to toxins at the site of Twin towers. Others have sustained life-altering injuries that require constant care and rehabilitation.

Feal is again pushing lawmakers to act, this time over a funding shortfall in the program, which he says will be $3 billion runs a little before 2025.

While the bill authorizes funding until 2090, Feal said it does not take into account the cost of health care inflation, an issue he says will keep many responders from paying their bills. medical.

“In 2015, there were 76,000 people in the World Trade Center healthcare program. Now there are nearly 118,000 people in the program,” Feal said. “Nobody took medical inflation into consideration.”

The supplement $3 billion funding would allow people to keep the doctors, nurses and administrators who have worked with them on the job while ensuring that responders continue to receive the drugs and treatment they need.

But the program hasn’t been a one-size-fits-all solution for all 9/11 first responders, some of whom have been cut out of its benefits, which Feal hopes Congress will also deal with $3 billion in additional funding.

“You’ve seen stories about people in the Pentagon being kicked out,” Feal said. “The bill will allow approximately 800 to 1,200 Pentagon civilians and military personnel to re-enter or participate in the program.”

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Feal said he’s been in Washington working on a solution to the problem, noting that he has obtained assurances from the Senate Majority Leader chuck schumer that funding will be included in this year’s omnibus legislation.

While additional funding would be another win for 9/11 first responders, Feal said there are still issues his organization will have to continue to fight for.

“There has never been a bill written in Congress it’s perfect,” Feal said. “Like any government-run agency like the comp Social Security at the state and federal levels, people are falling through the cracks…who don’t meet the criteria.”

Some of the people who fall through the cracks do so because of what Feal called “arbitrary” eligibility criteria written by Congressstating a rule that responders had to be south of canal street during the exhibition to be considered for the program.

“It’s not like the toxic clouds are saying ‘Oh, we have to stop at canal street”” Feal said.

He also pointed out a rule that all cancers should be diagnosed after September 2005 for a person to be eligible for the program.

“Most cancers, you must have had them after September 2005,” Feal said. “It’s just an arbitrary date that they chose. These are things that kept people from getting into the program.”

Some of the most vulnerable responders are those who have not worked for the police and fire department and who have adequate insurance, even in retirement. But construction and trade workers who have been injured or ill have often lost their jobs and health benefits and are dependent on funding to get the treatment they need.

“A lot of them don’t qualify because of some kind of criteria that kept them out of the program,” Feal said. “So every day we stand up for them.”

LINK: Get updates and more on this story at foxnews.com.

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