U.S. Senate bill aims to help 9/11 responders

New York lawmakers came together on Capitol Hill Wednesday to introduce the first comprehensive health legislation aimed at helping many Ground Zero emergency workers who fell ill after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

The bill, known as the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, is named for a former NYPD detective who died two years ago from a respiratory illness. Zadroga assisted in rescue efforts at Ground Zero after Sept. 11.

Health experts say about 16,000 emergency responders have come forward with illnesses they developed after Sept 11. Richard Volpe, of Mount Kisco, also assisted in rescue efforts. After he was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease, he says his life has become a race against time.

"My kidneys will eventually fail," he says. "We don't know if it's two weeks or two years...we just don't know."

Volpe says his illness forced him to retire from the NYPD well before his time. The doctors told the former police officer that it was the toxins he inhaled while working at the World Trade Center site that made him sick.

In the eight years since the tragedy of Sept. 11, Volpe and other sick first responders have not received any money from the federal government to help cover their health care costs, but Volpe says he hopes it is about to change.

"Almost 100 people died already, so it is late," he says, " but better late than never, I guess."

Volpe fears, however, that the legislation could die in the U.S. Senate like many other bills in the past.

"The talk comes around 9/11 anniversary, or when there is the next election, and that's when the conversation comes up," he says. "After it's done, it disappears again."

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