Photo Courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
As Sen. Gillibrand pointed out on Monday, the “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act” is designed to ensure that the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is fully funded and will remain open for those that will become ill in the future.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Bipartisan legislation to make the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund permanent will be re-named to add Sept. 11 first responders Luis Alvarez and Ray Pfeifer, who will now join NYPD Det. James Zadroga, as honorees of the bill, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced on Monday.
The legislation will now be named the “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act.”
Gillibrand noted that the original 9/11 Health and Compensation Act and its reauthorization were named after James Zadroga, a NYPD detective who passed away from cancer and other health problems linked to his time at Ground Zero. The legislation would now also honor City Police Det. Alvarez and City Firefighter Pfeifer, who fought for the Sept. 11 bill for years and spent the last months of their lives coming to Washington to urge members of Congress to make the fund permanent.
Alvarez succumbed to cancer on Saturday, June 29. In 2009, Pfeifer was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney cancer; he passed away on May 28, 2017.
The VCF is on shaky fiscal legs. In the fund’s Seventh Annual Status Report and Third Annual Reassessment of Policies and Procedures, both published in February, VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya indicated that a VCF funding shortfall—due in large part to an incredible escalation in the number of claims filed in 2018 on account of a surge in the rates of serious illnesses suffered by members of the Sept. 11 community and the increasing number of deaths that can be attributed to Sept. 11 exposure—has forced her to significantly decrease future payouts. For any claim or amendment submitted on or before Feb. 1, 2019, the payout will be reduced by 50 percent. For any claim or amendment submitted on or after Feb. 2, 2019, the payout will be reduced by 70 percent.
“The stark reality of the data leaves me no choice,” Bhattacharyya has said.
As Gillibrand pointed out on Monday, the “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act” is designed to ensure that the VCF is fully funded and will remain open for those that will become ill in the future. A filibuster-proof bipartisan majority of the Senate has cosponsored the legislation. The measure has 332 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and passed out of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously last month.
“Luis Alvarez, Ray Pfeifer, and James Zadroga were 9/11 heroes who devoted their lives to helping others, and it is only fitting that this legislation be named in their honor,” Gillibrand added. “Our 9/11 first responders are sick and dying, and too many of them have spent too much of their precious time left fighting to convince Congress to pass the 9/11 VCF bill. This legislation has strong bipartisan support and the votes in the Senate and the House to pass this bill as soon as it comes to the floor. This all comes down to political will and whether Congress is truly willing to ‘never forget’ the heroes of 9/11.”