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PHOTO — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., calls on Congress to fully finance the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund during a news conference Thursday, Feb. 21, at West Haven Fire Department headquarters. Joining Blumenthal are, from left, City Council Minority Leader Richard DePalma, R-at large; mayoral Executive Assistant Lou Esposito; Mayor Nancy R. Rossi; District Vice Presidents Steve Michalovic and Bob Smith of the Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters Association of Connecticut; UPFFA member Mike Spoldi; and West Haven Fire Department Lt. William Heffernan and Chief James P. O’Brien. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
WEST HAVEN, Feb. 21, 2019 — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called on Congress to fully finance the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund during a news conference Thursday, Feb. 21, at West Haven Fire Department headquarters.
After alarming news that the fund is running out of money and will cut future payments to 9/11 victims by up to 70 percent, Blumenthal also called on Congress to make the VCF permanent.
Joining Blumenthal for the announcement were Mayor Nancy R. Rossi, mayoral Executive Assistant Lou Esposito and City Council Minority Leader Richard DePalma, R-at large, along with West Haven Fire Department Chief James P. O’Brien and Lt. William Heffernan, District Vice Presidents Steve Michalovic and Bob Smith of the Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters Association of Connecticut, and UPFFA member Mike Spoldi.
The VCF has already approved 22,323 claims for survivors and their families for physical injuries as a result of their involvement at New York’s ground zero, including exposure to toxins.
According to the most recent VCF report, there have been 366 claims filed by individuals living in Connecticut, with 136 individuals living in the state already receiving funds.
With cancer rates for 9/11 responders on the rise and the fund set to expire in 2020, the VCF is more important than ever, said Blumenthal, who was also joined at the midday news conference by more than a dozen firefighters from the Elm Street department, which serves the First Fire Taxation District, also known as the Center District.
Blumenthal fought for the passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act in 2015, which made the World Trade Center Health Program permanent and reauthorized the VCF through 2020.
Because of an increase in claims, however, the VCF is close to running out of money, Blumenthal said, forcing benefits to be cut by 50 to 70 percent to ensure that all eligible individuals receive an award.
O’Brien and Heffernan are among 35 West Haven firefighters who served at ground zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack and now participate in the WTC program, which ensures proper medical treatment and monitoring of more than 33,000 first responders and survivors who have 9/11-related illnesses.
Of the 35 firefighters, 23 are from the West Haven Fire Department, seven are from the West Shore Fire Department, and five are from the City of West Haven Fire Department Allingtown, O’Brien said.
Last Congress, Blumenthal was an original co-sponsor of the Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act, which would permanently reauthorize and finance the VCF as well as provide benefits to those who saw them reduced as a result of the current funding shortfall.
— MICHAEL P. WALSH, Public Relations Information Coordinator