A special hearing will take place on June 11 on Capitol Hill on legislation that would ensure all first responders and survivors of the 9/11 World Trade Center terror attacks continue to receive monitoring and medical care.

Ground Zero one month after the attacks on the World Trade Center
Ground Zero one month after the attacks on the World Trade Center (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who was one of the original sponsors of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act, organized a news conference at the World Trade Center Health Program clinic at Rutgers University to call attention to the situation, and call for lawmakers to pass it.

"Our first responders answered a call for help when we needed them and now we owe it to them to help them with the medical care they need as a result of their service," Pallone said.

Dr. Iris Udasin, the director of the WTC Health Program Clinic said does a lot of work to make sure the patients get the treatment and benefits they deserve.

"We figure out how to get the best possible care for our patients, we keep track of their illnesses, and we spend a lot of time advocating for our patients, making sure they get the right benefits, the right medicines. We have so many sick patients that we need to make sure they're getting the right care for their illnesses with people that do know how to take care of them," Udasin said.

David Howley, a Hunterdon County resident who responded to Ground Zero when he was a New York City Police officer 14 years ago, has had recurring battles with cancer and breathing difficulties.

He said it's important to take care of all first responders who have developed medical problems as a result of their service at Ground Zero following the attacks, and also to make sure others who may respond to any emergency in the future will know they will be taken care of as well.

"We need to provide treatment for these diseases that have been so unknown to people, and cropped up on us where they don't normally get seen before," he said. "It's important for ourselves, our families, to be able to try to have a quality of life for the rest of our time and not have to worry about the financial difficulties that go with these types of treatments."

Howley said he feels fortunate I have good insurance, but he can't imagine the cost to people that don't have the same kind of coverage, because the costs are staggering to get treated for cancer.

"Keeping this 9/11 treatment facility open in New Jersey is critically important. They see the particular symptoms and they now have the knowledge and the background and the tools to know what it is they are looking for and looking at," he said. "The facility gets us through, it gets all of us that have been afflicted with it through it."

The Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act will expire in 2016 without reauthorization.

By: David Matthau

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