Bay Ridge

Donovan writes to House members about WTC Health Program

November 30, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan highlighted the life of one Sept. 11 volunteer to serve as an example of why Congress should make the World Trade Center Health Program permanent. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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In a letter that paid tribute to the sacrifice of a woman who spent weeks after the Sept. 11 attack rescuing pets from lower Manhattan apartments and who died of cancer earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan has written to each of his 434 House colleagues to urge them to approve a permanent extension of the World Trade Center Health Program.

In his Nov. 24 letter, Donovan mentioned Diane DiGiacomo, a Brooklyn woman who recently died of cancer.

“Over the past several months, I have focused on sharing the stories of the men and women who struggle with 9/11-related illnesses. Diane DiGiacomo, for example, spent weeks after 9/11 rescuing pets left behind in lower Manhattan apartments. Last year, doctors diagnosed her with cancer. This past Sunday, I attended her wake. For Diane and the thousands of others like her, I implore you to permanently reauthorize the WTC Health Program,” Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) wrote in the letter to all of his fellow House members.

DiGiacomo, 52, was a former special investigator ASPCA. She was a graduate of Edward R. Murrow High School. The WTC Health Program was created out of the James Zadroga 9/11 Heath and Compensation Act. The law, which was passed by Congress in 2010, provided health care for thousands of Sept. 11 first responders, lower Manhattan residents and volunteers who worked at the World Trade Center site in the weeks and months following the attacks.

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In the years since the attack, many of them have been diagnosed with cancer, respiratory diseases and other ailments that experts have traced back to the fact that they breathed in toxic dust at the site. The Zadroga Act allocated $4.2 billion to create the World Trade Center Health Program to provide testing and treatment for people who worked in response and recovery operations as well as for other survivors. James Zadroga was a police detective who died of a respiratory illness in 2006. The Zadroga Act, which was set for five years, expired on Sept. 30. Despite pleas from Sept. 11 first responders and families, Congress has yet to re-authorize the law.

“I represent 6,749 heroes who rely on the WTC Health Program for medical screening and treatment. If Congress reauthorizes the program, lives will be saved and families protected from bankrupting medical costs; expenses they would not face but for their selfless work picking up the pieces in our generation’s darkest hour. These 6,749 heroes are why reauthorizing the WTC Health Program is so personal to me,” Donovan wrote in his letter.

On Nov. 12, Donovan and U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-C-Long Island) held a press conference in he Bay Ridge to call on Congress to pass an extension of a law so that the medical expenses of Sept. 11 heroes could be covered.

“Many will pay for their heroism for the rest of their lives,” Donovan said at the press conference. The chairman of the House Judiciary committee, U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), recently introduced his own version of the Zadroga Act, but his legislation would extend the law by another five years instead of making it permanent.

In addition, Zadroga advocates said Goodlatte’s bill would cut compensation payments for victims by 60 percent. George Taylor, a retired homicide detective, talked at the press conference about being diagnosed with cancer of the vocal cords in 2012 and about his devastation at discovering that the cancer had spread.

“By 2013, I had my entire voice box removed. I am facing a lifetime of doctor visits and a lifetime of expensive medical bills,” he said.

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