9/11 Heroes May Get Health Care Cuts While Hospital Fights Government


Source: nydailynews.com

Tuesday, June 16th 2009, 4:00 AM

Nearly 2,000 sick 9/11 first responders could be left without medical care while a New Jersey hospital battles with the federal government for more money, the Daily News has learned.

The Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences Institute at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in ., says it expects to run out of federal funding next month.

It has requested more money, but the Office of Management and Budget in Washington has disputed the hospital is broke.

"The promise is that the check's in the mail," said Dr. James Melius, of the New York State Laborers' Health and Safety Fund. "But it's been in the mail now for two months."

A hospital spokesman confirmed that they're waiting for more funding but said he's hopeful the money will come in time.

An OMB spokesman didn't immediately return a call for comment.

But for Charles Giles, a former EMT worker who responded to the World Trade Center attacks, every day without knowing how he will get the medical care he needs is terrifying.

Giles, who takes 28 medications a day, has been treated at the institute for respiratory problems for the past two and a half years.

He said hospital officials told him they were no longer taking appointments past July. "If this place closes, I'm screwed," Giles, 41, told The News.


NY Reps. Express Concern About Funding Problems At 9/11 Health Clinics
-New Jersey Clinic Will Have Only $100K on Hand at Month’s End, May Stop Seeing Patients-

News Release: June 16, 2009

Contacts: Joe Soldevere (Maloney), 212-860-0606
Ilan Kayatsky (Nadler), 212-367-7350
Carol Danko (King), 202-225-7896
Lauren Amendolara (McMahon), 202-225-8420

Washington, D.C. – Today, New York Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, Peter King, and Michael McMahon wrote to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Peter Orszag asking him to correct flawed accounting procedures and other obstacles put in place by the previous administration that are impeding the flow of funding to clinics operated by the World Trade Center Health Program (a full copy of the lawmakers’ letter is below). As a result of these difficulties, the WTC Health Program’s New Jersey clinic reports that it will only have $100,000 on hand by the end of June and may have to stop seeing patients by the end of next month.

In a recent letter to New York lawmakers, Director Orszag stated that the WTC Health Program has spent only 50% of the funds Congress has appropriated for 9/11 health care since 2003. Accordingly, OMB has yet to deliver fresh infusions of funding to the Program’s clinics. However, Reps. Maloney, Nadler, King, and McMahon have been informed that the Program’s actual expenditures are far higher than OMB’s figure, which was determined using accounting procedures put in place by the previous administration that do not adequately track the Program’s current expenses and future commitments.

“Unfortunately, the previous administration’s incompetence continues to haunt the World Trade Center Health Program, but I’m confident that the OMB will now take quick action to correct these problems,” said Rep. Maloney. “It’s vitally important that the New Jersey 9/11 health clinic and other Centers of Excellence remain open and delivering much-needed care to the heroes and heroines of 9/11. We look forward to working with the Obama Administration to solve this issue and to pass the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act by the eighth anniversary of the attacks.”

“It is very frustrating that we are still mired in the Bush administration’s legacy of an incompetent and piecemeal approach to 9/11 health care policy,” said Nadler. “What is important now is to correct that failed policy and ensure that the WTC Health Program has the tools it needs to efficiently treat the 9/11 first responders, area workers, students and residents who are in need of health care. We must make sure that the Centers of Excellence can afford to keep their doors open and continue providing quality care. I am hopeful that OMB Director Orszag will provide the Centers the funding they need. And, in the long term, it is essential that we pass the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.”

“It’s been over seven years since the heroes of 9/11 were exposed to the toxins of the dust cloud, yet the health effects from exposure continue to develop,” said King. “The World Trade Center Health Programs are essential to monitoring the health of all who were exposed.”

“It’s shameful that these funds were not being directed appropriately to program clinics serving our first responders,” said Rep. Michael E. McMahon. “For the past five years, we could have made great strides with caring for and treating those who have fallen ill after 9/11. We intend to resolve this problem as quickly as possible with the help of the Administration.”

Reps. Maloney, Nadler, King, and McMahon are the authors of H.R. 847, the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which would make permanent existing 9/11 health programs and reopen the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.

The lawmakers also wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week asking to meet with her to discuss the WTC Health Program’s funding problems and restrictions preventing the Program from using federal funds for outreach, benefits counseling, and data evaluation.


June 16, 2009

Mr. Peter Orszag
Director, Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503

Dear Director Orszag:

Thank you for your recent response to our letter of March 26, 2009 regarding funding for the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program.

In your response, you claim that the WTC grantees have only spent 50 percent of the funds appropriated since 2003. We believe that this figure significantly underestimates the actual expenditures and spending commitments of the grantees and thus misrepresents the actual needs of these vital health programs.

These underestimates are due to a combination of factors related to the funding vehicles (i.e., grants) including delays in actual expenditures being reflected in the accounting systems used by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and OMB to track spending in these programs and the fact that these federal accounting systems do not always reflect spending commitments made by the grantees as part of providing medical care for these WTC responders. Within their institutions, the grantees must account for those spending commitments in order not to exceed the amount of funding available through their grants.

We have recently learned that these discrepancies, combined with unexplained delays in processing extensions to the current grants for the clinical centers, have resulted in the New Jersey center having to prepare to stop seeing patients next month due to the delays in extending their grant extension. They report that they will have only $100,000 in available funding left at the end of June, hardly enough to operate a busy medical clinic. This situation was apparently not reflected in the federal accounting systems. Other medical centers serving the WTC responders will soon find themselves in similar situations unless their grants are extended and adequate funding made available to them.

We recognize that the current mechanisms used to fund this program, which were designed by the previous administration, are not ideal and make oversight of the program more challenging. In our proposed legislation, the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (H.R. 847), we have strived to correct that problem by funding the medical care for eligible responders and community residents through a more direct reimbursement system. Meanwhile, as our bill is being considered by Congress, we need to make sure that we continue to provide adequate funding for the badly needed medical care that these people deserve. We cannot continue the restrictive policies of the previous administration who sought to limit this program by unnecessarily restricting the available funding and support for these centers. These restrictions are described in our enclosed letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius.

We look forward to continuing to work with you and OMB on the WTC Health Program and providing care for the heroes and heroines of 9/11.


Members of Congress

Joe Soldevere
Press Secretary
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney
(212) 860-0606 office
(646) 831-1649 cell

Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? Do we deserve to know how and why 9/11 happened?