Cyrus Dugger

The President & Ground Zero Workers

After he was invited to attend the State of the Union Address by Senator Clinton, after his father died hours before the State of the Union, and after a direct public plea to the President in the wake of his father’s death, only then did President Bush finally agreed to meet with Ceasar Borja Jr. last week. Similarly, as a result of Borjas’s lobbying and publicity, the President also pledged $25 million in additional funding to support monitoring and treatment for Ground Zero workers and responders.

However, this amount of support will only keep the medical program going until the end of 2007, and is only ten percent of the 250 million amount Mt. Sinai, the main provide of these health services, says is needs each year to keep the program going.

And yet, while the President’s attempt to ignore the suffering of Ground Zero workers that his administration is to a large degree responsible for (by way of the false statements about safety from contaminants from the EPA in the days after the 9/11 attacks) seems cold and inhumane, I’m beginning to wonder if he really just doesn’t understand what is going on.

Here’s an excerpt of an article describing the President’s meeting with Borja Jr. that got me to this truly depressing possibility.

Then Bush came in and greeted us. He gave each of us a pin and a small coin with the presidential seal; I gave him a Mass card from my dad's funeral. I showed the President some family pictures of us with my dad. Then he got to a picture of my mom kissing my dad's forehead when he was intubated in the intensive care unit.
Bush paused on it, and his face went very serious. He handed it back to me, and I said, "You and the Congress have the power to pass legislation to provide for medical support for all the people who need it."
He said, "You're all right, Ceasar," and he shook my hand.
We thanked him for the $25million he put in the budget for Ground Zero responders. He said something like, "It's only a beginning. It's just a beginning."
I don't want to put words in Bush's mouth by trying to repeat exactly what I remember him saying. But I could tell from his demeanor that he was sincere, and everything he said to us was positive. Nothing was neutral, and best of all, nothing was negative.
My dad didn't get a full inspector's funeral because the NYPD doesn't recognize that he died in the line of duty, and the doctors won't draw a direct connection.
Bush asked us if that made any difference for our benefits - he was really concerned about that. I said we would be taken care of.
But I said, "Mr. President, my father did die in the line of duty because my father's pulmonary fibrosis was directly connected to his service at Ground Zero."
He agreed, saying, "Do these people have a hard time understanding what 'direct link' means? (link)"

I just want to repeat the point that the President of the United States, a President whose legacy revolves solely around the events of and after 9/11, does not know whether or not NYC police officers’ benefits are affected by the current burdens of proof, or whether they are determined to have died “in the line of duty.”

The quote again.

Bush asked us if that made any difference for our benefits - he was really concerned about that. I said we would be taken care of.

The more you read and think about this quote, the more disturbing it becomes. How can the President not already know the answer to these questions?

Indeed, Borja Jr., is not completely correct when he replies that it doesn’t matter. The Bloomberg administration recently has come out drawing a distinction in pension benefits along just these lines of “line-of-duty” “non-line-of-duty” distinctions. Although the recently passed set of New York 9/11 worker and first responder bills were meant to ensure that police officers families were “taken care of,” the Bloomberg administration has attempted to reduce the pensions of police officers who retire before they become sick with Ground Zero related illnesses.

Here’s, my post on this issue, and an excerpt of the coverage by the Daily News.

“Legal snarl imperils 9/11 heroes' kin aid BY MICHAEL SAUL DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF A dispute between the city and state over the wording of a new law is threatening the pension benefits of loved ones of retirees who died of Ground Zero-related illnesses.

The city contends that the law, recently signed by Gov. Pataki, provides a 100% salary benefit for civil servants' survivors - but only 50% for families of heroes who died after retiring from city jobs post-9/11.

But Joanna Rose, a spokeswoman for Pataki, said the measure's intent was to provide recurring payments of 100% of the salary to the beneficiaries of those who died due to their service after the terror attacks.”

After resisting evidence of a link between Ground Zero exposure and the resulting illnesses of first responders and workers, initially lobbying against the passage of the NY State bill giving first responders and workers more time to file workers compensation claims, having the city spend thousands if not millions fighting claims based on the city negligence in its response to 9/11 environmental fallout, and publicly stating that compensating this nation’s 9/11 heroes is just too expensive, now Bloomberg is trying to ex-post facto re-write the law he originally opposed."

When Bush first came into the room, he told me, "You made the world listen."
My mom told the President, "That's right - he made you listen." (link)

Apparently, not closely enough to know much about the issue he was listening to.

Cross-posted from Tort Deform

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Posted at 10:10 AM, Feb 06, 2007 in
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