Former host of “The Daily Show” and 9/11 survivor advocate Jon Stewart hosted a Facebook live video Sunday urging those with 9/11-related health issues to sign up for medical treatment available through the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
Stewart was joined by John Feal of the FealGood Foundation and Dr. James Melius, a doctor with the 9/11 Health Watch group, which monitors how the Zadroga Act is carried out. The FealGood Foundation works with the 9/11 Health Watch group to assist first responders with whatever medical care they need, including those who suffer from injuries they sustained or illnesses they contracted during their recovery efforts on 9/11.
The act, which was renewed last year after becoming a law in 2010, helps 9/11 first responders and survivors receive medical monitoring, treatment and compensation for their injuries or medical conditions, according to the WTC Health Program. It provides care and coverage for 75 years.
First responders are automatically eligible for health monitoring every year for the rest of their life, according to Melius. Those who lived in the area near the World Trade center, referred to as survivors, are eligible for screenings, and if they are found to have an illness, can receive health monitoring for the rest of their life.
Around 76,000 people benefit from the act as of 2016, according to Feal. But Stewart, Feal and Melius wish to extend the program’s message nationwide and help as many of those affected by 9/11-related injuries and illnesses as possible.
Between 30 and 40,000 first responders across the U.S. are thought to be eligible for healthcare through the Zadroga Act, according to Melius. Many who came to New York City to help with the clean up and recovery efforts went back home to their respective towns and congressional districts and seemingly aren’t aware of the healthcare act and the benefits it could bring them. Feal said responders from all but two nationwide congressional districts were part of recovery work.
Feal said many first responders don’t know about the act, or if they do, are worried about the confidentiality of the program. They could also be worried about how the Act may affect their worker’s compensation, and Melius said the program is fully confidential and employers do not have to know about a worker’s 9/11-related condition.
Research around diseases and conditions that manifested in first responders and survivors has shown that even if a person feels fine now, they could develop a serious condition as a result of their time around ground zero. Melius said early monitoring is important and any and all people who were exposed after the attack should take advantage of the Zadroga Act for preventative monitoring and treatment if needed.
Even those who worked in the area south of Canal Street are eligible for screening and health monitoring if a condition is found, Melius said.
Two first responders spoke about the help they received through the Zadroga Act, and stressed the importance of others joining the program for medical help.
Information about the benefits the act provides as well as other programs available for first responders and survivors is available here.