NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Hundreds of first responders are heading to Washington D.C. to rally for a permanent extension of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
The group boarded buses for D.C. early Tuesday morning at the fire academy on Randall’s Island.
They want Congress to extend the federally-funded program, which provides medical screenings and treatment for people exposed to toxic substances at ground zero following the 9/11 attacks.
The World Trade Center Health program, a component of the Zadroga Act which provides 9/11 survivors with medical treatment, expired on Sept. 30 after Congress failed to act to extend the bill.
The Victim’s Compensation Fund, which provides compensation for 9/11 victims and their families, is set to expire in 2016.
Firefighters said the bill needs to be renewed permanently.
“I went through chemo and the radiation and I went to rehab and I’m back,” FDNY Battalion Chief Gene Kelty told CBS2’s Diane Macedo. “Hopefully, the cancer is gone but it’s very important because that medical coverage was covered by the Zadroga bill.”
“I don’t know how long I’m going to be around,” said FDNY Captain Christopher King. “I don’t want to leave my kids in debt.”
Many first responders on Sept. 11 came from across the country and created a national response. To date, 33,000 people have developed 9/11-related illnesses.