More than 130,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to extend the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, which provides financial assistance to those suffering from illnesses caused by Ground Zero contaminants.
The petition was put together by John Feal, a 9/11 survivor advocate who plans to collect a half-million signatures and bring them to Washington D.C., as he demands Congress extends the VCF past its deadline on Dec. 18, 2020.
“I want to show congress that the American people (are) behind us and that we’re not playing games,” Feal said.
“They’re going to extend this bill,” Feal said about the VCF. “I respect anyone who disagrees with (the VCF), because that’s their opinion. But if anyone obstructs us in any way, plays political games or does something dirty — someone is going to lose a tooth.”
Advocates fear that the $7.3 billion dedicated to the fund is already showing signs of strain. While there is more than $4 billion left, they fear the VCF could change their compensation levels as the deadline looms, so those who those who file for compensation from now until the end will get less money than those who filed earlier with the same problems.
Last week, VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya told the Daily News that her agency plans to publish updated projections in the next few weeks “and maybe seek some public comment on changes that will have to be made regarding our policies and procedures.”
Legislation is already being drafted to extend the VCF, sources said.
Through Aug. 31, the VCF has received 34,850 compensation claims from 9/11 illness sufferers since 2011 — a nearly 36% jump over the 25,695 claims it took in as of August, 2017.
Out of all the compensation claims filed, the VCF has issued awards to about 20,000 of them with average payouts in the range of $200,000 for personal injury claims, to $700,000 for victims who have died from a 9/11 condition.
The VCF has also seen a 94% jump in eligible “deceased claims” — requests for compensation by estates or family members of a 9/11 survivor who has already succumbed to illness. As of the end of August, the VCF has approved eligibility on a total of 720 claims, compared to 371 as of August 2017. So far, nearly 500 deceased claims have received payouts.
To sign the petition, one can visit change.org.
From John Feal of the FealGood Foundation:
My name is John Feal and I’ve been to 181 funerals since September 11, 2001, for first-responders who joined me at Ground Zero after the attacks on the World Trade Center. They are now dying from cancer due to exposure to asbestos, burning jet fuel, burning computer parts, pulverized concrete and other toxic substances.
By 2021, it’s expected that more people will have died from toxic exposure than were killed in the attacks. And Congress could break their promise to provide them with compensation.
I went to Ground Zero hoping that my experience as a US Army veteran and demolition supervisor could save lives. Seventeen years later, many of my fellow responders have died or are dying from cancer, respiratory illness, and other health problems caused by their exposure to debris and toxic chemicals.
In 2015, we successfully fought to reauthorize the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act, which ensures victims could receive health screenings and medical benefits for 70 years, and compensation through 2020. In less than two years, that Victim Compensation Fund will close — and it’s already running out of money.
After 9/11, the EPA assured the responders and residents that “the air is safe,” and hundreds of thousands of residents and workers returned. Today over 10,000 people have been diagnosed with WTC-linked cancers and more than 2,000 of those people have died, including 184 NYC firefighters.
I live with the memory of the lives lost that day, but also the sadness of knowing survivors are still dying. It’s tragic that our elected officials won’t come together to guarantee support for these victims, who inhaled cancer causing chemicals as they searched for survivors and recovered bodies. Now, thousands of families face steep medical bills and struggle every day just to survive. This is no way to treat human beings who sacrificed so much that day.
Please sign my petition to make sure 9/11 responders and victims are supported by the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund after they sacrificed everything.