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9/11 survivors fight changes to health care program

Posted at 3:47 PM, Sep 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-26 15:47:26-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A New York City law firm is fighting some major changes to the 9/11 health care program that ensures survivors of 9/11 with long-term illnesses will get the care and medications they need.

"9/11 was the worst disaster I’ve ever seen in my life," Sal Annerino, who lives in Port Charlotte, told WPTV.

Annerino is a retired district superintendent for the New York City Department of Sanitation who once ran the emergency response division.

He responded to the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 and many days after that.

“I have had major problems with my breathing and twice I was told I had cancer,” Annerino said. “I depend on so many different breathing meds, PTSD meds, pain meds, and we’re having major problems.”

Those problems have to do with the 9/11 health care program, according to New York City-based attorney Michael Barasch.

“Unfortunately, there has been an explosion of cancers in the 9/11 community, and as a result, the health program is about $3 billion short of lasting until 2025,” Barasch said.

Barasch said this has left survivors like Annerino struggling to get easy access to their medications.

“We’re lobbying Congress. We’ve been down to Washington a bunch of times to try to add the funding to permanently fund the World Trade Center health care program,” Barasch said.

There are two bills pending in Congress — one in the Senate and one in the House — that would ensure funding for the program through fiscal year 2090.

It’s called the "9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act."

People like Annerino are keeping a close eye on the status of the bills.

“I took me 65 phone calls in order to be able to get my medicines straightened out, and they’re still not completely correct,” Annerino said. “It’s a disgrace. We lost four firemen the last couple of days. We lost two cops in the last couple of days. We were promised that we would be taken care of for life and we are not being.”

Survivors that need help navigating the health care program changes can email Ben.Chevat@911healthwatch.org.

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