Key lawmakers in Congress have reached agreement on plans to deliver aid to first responders on 9/11 who have faced crippling illnesses from their work at Ground Zero. The agreement will be passed in the House and Senate in coming hours.
Here is the text of a statement issued by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who was one of the key negotiators on this deal.
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the
following statement today regarding an agreement on the 9/11 bill.
“I’m pleased the sponsors of
this bill agreed to lower costs dramatically, offset the bill, sunset key
provisions and take steps to prevent fraud. Every American recognizes the
heroism of the 9/11 first responders, but it is not compassionate to help one
group while robbing future generations of opportunity. I’m pleased this
agreement strikes a fair balance and improves the bill the majority attempted
to rush through at the last minute,” Dr. Coburn said.
The agreement includes the
Costs. This agreement saves
taxpayers $6.2 billion from the substitute amendment and $7.5
billion from the House-passed bill. In the deal, costs are
reduced to $4.2 billion in the 10-year window and eliminated outside the
10-year window. Of that amount, $1.5 billion will go to health
benefits, while $2.7 billion will go to compensation.
Â· Permanently Close the Victims Compensation Fund (VCF)
after 5 years. The original
bill kept the VCF open through 2031, making it extremely susceptible to
waste, fraud and abuse and incurring significant long-term costs. The
fund is now open only through 2016 and has language to expressly say that it is
permanently closed at after 5 years.
Attorneys Fees. Places a hard
cap for attorneys’ fees at 10 percent of the total award and allows the Special
Master to reduce attorneys fees he believes are excessive
Â· Prevents Reinstatement of Civil Claims. Prevent claimants who are rejected from the VCF
from then pursuing a civil lawsuit. This is consistent with the earlier
Â· Limitation on Infrastructure Costs. Explicitly excludes construction and
capital projects from health care spending in the bill.
ensure eligible individuals cannot “double-dip” on benefits. The Senators all agreed to get in writing from the
Special Master that he will include workers compensation benefits in collateral
sources of benefits that he must offset from potential compensation awards.
Â· More Accountability. Require claims-level data reporting to provide
accountability and opportunity for oversight, as well as GAO reports to
determine less expensive mechanisms to provide nationwide care, pharmaceutical
access, and health information technology promotion.