Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How “Never Forget the Heroes of 9/11” turned into “Who?”

On September 30th, 2015, Congress failed to reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act H.R.1786 and S.928. To say that I am a little upset would be a gross understatement. I am embarrassed that our elected representatives would turn a blind eye to those of us who continue to suffer to this day.

I am one of the lucky ones. My symptoms are insignificant compared to those suffering from horrific ailments, like my old NYPD partner who developed cancer of the appendix. On 9/11 we lost 23 members of the NYPD, since then we have lost dozens more. The same is true for the PAPD and FDNY. Countless more, from civilian survivors to construction workers, have also paid with their lives.

I need to tip my hat to a fellow named John Feal, who started the FealGood Foundation. John is one of the construction workers who responded to the WTC and lost half a foot as a result of his work. He and a friend of mine, retired ESU Detective Glenn Klein, along with many others, have led the fight to assist those who continue to suffer from 9/11 related illness. Likewise, I applaud comedian Jon Stewart for his stalwart support. I’ve never been a Jon Stewart fan, but he earned my utmost respect by not turning his back on us.

Congress had an opportunity to truly #Neverforget when the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act came up for re-authorization. Certainly, based on the amount of tweets and Facebook posts that were made, by our representatives, on 9/11 about ‘never forgetting,’ you would have thought this was a no-brainer.

Imagine my shock when, on September 30th, it was not extended.

Unlike many things that originate in Washington, this program is run pretty well. So well that the program will be able to continue financially, at least for the short term, although most involved admit that some programs will begin to be affected as early as January / February. It seems inconceivable that those dealing with the medical hardships from the attack would be left out in the cold.

What happened to all those politicians who expressed their annual outrage and promised to “Never Forget”?

Several years ago, retired NYPD Lieutenant named Bill Dement Jr., wrote the book "Delay, Deny, Hope They Die: World Trade Center FirstResponders - The Battle for Health Care and Compensation."  Lt. Dement passed away in August 2014 from illness attributed to 9/11. After the re-authorization failed, the title seems to be more than a bit appropriate.

Perhaps someone should write one titled: We Were Heroes.

What saddens me even more, are the names of those who chose not to co-sponsor the bill. You would think that both sides of the aisle, republican and democrat, would have been eager to protect those suffering from the greatest terror attack in U.S. history. You would think, but you would also be wrong.

Honestly, I had expected the majority of the support for this bill to come from republicans. After all, they tend to rally around the flag and surround themselves with heroes. So who better to champion a cause like this? Apparently Messrs. Boehner and McConnell didn’t get the memo. No, those championing this cause turned out to be Mmes Maloney and Gillibrand.

Of the three current republican presidential candidates, only Lindsey Graham co-sponsored. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio both did not. I have been an ardent supporter of Ted Cruz, but I can no longer support him. In fact, many republicans did not co-sponsor either the House or Senate bills. My favorite is Sen. James Risch (R – Id) who co-sponsored on June 22nd, then withdrew on June 23rd.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself in agreement with the likes of Senator’s Durbin, Feinstein, Frankel, Boxer, Warren and Schumer. I felt as if I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

I’d like to say that my own congressman, Rodney Davis (R-Il), someone whom I personally know, had co-sponsored the bill, but he didn’t. I’ll remember that come election time and I will remind a lot of my friends as well. Once again, I found myself surrounded by democratic members like Charles Rangel, Alan Grayson, and Sheila Jackson-Lee.

This has really hit home for me and is causing me to rethink my traditional support. I’ve been a republican since 1982 and had the honor of voting for Ronald Reagan. A lot has changed since then and I’m thinking now might be a good time to go independent. It’s time we start voting for the individual and not the party.

To be fair, this is just about those who didn’t sign-up to ‘co-sponsor’ the respective bills. Theoretically, someone could have chosen not to be a co-sponsor, but still vote for the bill. However, since Congress failed to act, how they would have ‘voted’ is a moot point. The truth is that these bills should have been given a straight-forward, up/down vote. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. Why did the republican controlled Congress fail to act? The answer is: I don’t know.

Perhaps they were just too busy being politicians. Heaping praise on the 9/11 heroes, when the cameras were around, then turning a blind eye when the moment passed. Perhaps you should click on the links above and find out whether or not your representatives supported the bills. If they didn’t, ask them why not. The bills are currently in limbo, and require pressure from us to move forward.

Here is some fair warning to those up on the Hill, who waved the flag, said the right things, and claimed to support the ‘heroes of 9/11’……… Actions speak louder than words and we saw what you did when it mattered. Each and every one of you will come up for re-election and we will certainly Never Forget!

UpdateOn October 26th, Congressman Davis finally signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill. I guess you can get something done in D.C. with a little pressure !!

Follow me on Twitter: @Andrew_G_Nelson

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