According to various news reports, it has been discovered that the U.S. Treasury Department has been withholding millions of dollars from first responders treated by the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program through the Treasury Offset Program
On the 19th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, since two hijacked planes collided with the World Trade Center towers, causing them to collapse in New York Manhattan’s Financial District, approximately 3,000 people—including firefighters, police officers, office workers and others—died in the Twin Towers attacks. Another 40 people died when a third plane, United 93, crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers struggled with hijackers to regain control of the aircraft. The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, was hit by a fourth plane, killing 175. Al-Qaeda was behind the attacks, with leader Osama bin Laden orchestrating them. The events of September 11, 2001 remain the deadliest terror attacks in human history.
However, on the Anniversary of this somber event, several news reports accuse the U.S. Treasury Department of offsetting almost $4 million dollars away from a fund supporting the 9/11 first responders.
The U.S. Treasury Department began withholding payments intended to cover medical services for firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians suffering 9/11-related illnesses, according to documents obtained by the New York Daily News. These first responders who inhaled smoke and dust at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack have suffered severe illnesses including cancers and systemic autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, in the almost 20 years since.
The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOHS) oversees the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program. The NY Daily News reports that the U.S. Treasury Department started offsetting some of the money earmarked for this program — to the tune of about $500,000 each year in 2016 and 2017, and $630,000 each year in 2018 and 2019. And the U.S. Treasury Department has nearly tripled these extractions in 2020, withholding almost $1.5 million through late August, according to Dr. David Prezant, the program director.
“This was disappearing — without any notification,” Dr. Prezant, who is also the FDNY’s Chief Medical Officer, told the NY Daily News. “Here we have sick World Trade Center-exposed firefighters and EMS workers, at a time when the city is having difficult financial circumstances due to COVID-19, and we’re not getting the money we need to be able to treat these heroes.”
Adding insult to injury was that they weren’t given a heads-up about any cuts, he said. “And for years, they wouldn’t even tell us — we never ever received a letter telling us this,” he said.
When Republican Congressman Peter King from Long Island asked the NIOHS and Department of Health and Human Services for an explanation, however, he learned that other agencies in New York City have been battling with the federal government over Medicare bills. This resulted in money being cut from the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program to cover the delinquent Medicare debt of these other entities.
The U.S. Treasury Department has confirmed that it has been in contact with Congressman King, and it is also working with New York City’s Department of Finance to try to get this resolved
Congressman King still offered strong words over the situation. “It’s disgraceful,” he said. “I don’t even care what the details of this thing is. That fund has to be fully compensated, fully reimbursed. I mean, this is absurd. If anyone were true American heroes, it was the cops and firemen on 9/11, especially the firemen, and for even $1 to be held back is absolutely indefensible.”
Congressman King has written to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and said he planned to speak with Vice President Mike Pence about the seized funds.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also demanded that payments need to be restored to the first responders’ health program as soon as possible. “The [U.S.] Treasury Department siphoning Congressionally appropriated funds meant to pay for 9/11 workers’ healthcare is an outrageous finger in the eye to the firefighters, cops and other first responders who risked their lives for us,” he said.
A White House official from the Trump administration claims that they are working with Congressman King to examine any and all possible authorities to provide relief in this matter.
The U.S. Treasury Department shared a similar response in a statement, which read: “Treasury adhered to its statutory obligations established by Congress regarding debts owed by New York, but we are also working with Congressman King and others to examine any potential authorities to provide relief in this case to support our nation’s 9/11 heroes.”
A good portion of this blog article is attributable to the New York Daily News article on 9/10/2020 which can be found at: https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-fdny-911-health-program-treasury-20200910-s7yam67j6vhmhbdzg6ordanfdm-story.html
The U.S. Treasury Department’s powerful Treasury Offset Program collection weapons which have been routinely used to offset or seize federal benefits (Social Security Income, Social Security Disability Income, Military Pension, Federal Salary and/or Federal Tax Refund Payment) and administrative garnishment for wages or salaries against individuals for federal non-tax debt are also utilized for state funds such as the 9/11 health care funds specifically earmarked for our country’s heroes. Bottom line – no one is spared from the powerful collection weapons of the U.S. Treasury Department.
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