9/11 First Responders to Be Screened for Terrorist Ties to Get Benefits

COMMENTARY | Remember the First Responders Bill, the piece of legislation that was kicked around Congress for years before it was about to meet its certain legislative death before comedian Jon Stewart helped resurrect it by shaming Congress on his show the Thursday before Thanksgiving? Also known as the James Zadroga Bill, the measure was designed to provide financial assistance to those who have become victims of the dust and chemicals that were part of Ground Zero in New York City during and after the fall of the World Trade Center towers.

Now there has come to light just one more hurdle to clear for those suffering and dying from various stages of cancer, physical maladies, neurological disorders, and respiratory diseases that can invariably be traced back to the work performed attempting save and provide aide to those living and dying at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, and in the subsequent weeks that followed. Now, they must be matched against a terrorist watch list in order to get the funds appropriated for them…

John Feal, a 9/11 first responder that lost a foot at Ground Zero and who heads the advocacy group Fealgood Foundation, told the Huffington Post, “It’s comical at best, and I think it’s an insult to everyone who worked on The Pile and is sick and suffering from 9/11.”

Back in May 2010, long before the measure had just about died in Congress, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) thought it would be a good idea to make certain that the money being appropriated to help those who helped those in need at Ground Zero on 9/11 wouldn’t go to terrorists just trying to cash in on the government handout. Other Congressmen thought it was a good idea as well, and his amendment was passed with a voice vote.

The program created by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Law begins in July. In an effort to alleviate the shock of having to provide information that will be used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to ensure that applicants aren’t also on a terrorist watchlist, Dr. John Howard of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health sent a letter to medical providers and administrators informing them they should begin preparing potential applicants for what was to take place.

To review: The government fights the First Responders tooth and nail. Then a comedian convenes a panel of real 9/11 first responders on his fake news show to talk about the ridiculous footdragging occurring over the bill. A groundswell of support provides Congress with the bravery (but surprisingly few Republicans) to do what should have been done years earlier — only they cut the original amount asked for to a fraction. Then, months before the James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Law is to go into effect, potential beneficiaries of the bill are to be warned that they will be checked off a terrorist watchlist as a precaution to make certain the funds go to true 9/11 victims and not to terrorists.

Not only is the amendment and its implementation an insult to first responders, it is also a testament to the idiocy of a politically correct and inept bureaucracy. Informing the potential applicants that they will be screened will ensure that, if there ever would have been a terrorist among them, they will now avoid applying. In short, attempting to defuse a potentially volatile political situation, government officials have chosen to warn the terrorists. In effect, they will have managed to insult first responders and at the same time drive away what would have been unwary terrorists willing to wade through massive government red tape to get a few dollars of aid.

At least this way, Rep. Cliff Stearns amendment will have indirectly done what it was meant to do — kept terrorists from getting their hands on funds meant for the heroes and victims of 9/11. No doubt James Zadroga, who died while first responders were still trying to get the bill recognized, would have been proud of his government…

Saul Relative holds degrees in History and Secondary Education, and he taught school in West Virginia in the ’80s and Virginia during the ’90s. A student of politics and political movements, he began writing articles covering the political maneuverings of the Bush administration in 2004. Saul turned to writing full-time in 2008, dividing his time between reading and writing about politics and entertainment.