May 12, 2010
Mr. Peter Orszag
The Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Mr. Orszag,
We write to express our grave concern about the Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) and Obama Administration’s continued delays in approving
funding for the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program’s Centers of Excellence,
which provide care for WTC responders and survivors with WTC-related
illnesses. Without action from OMB soon, patients will need to be informed that
their care will not continue.
All of the six clinical centers and two data centers that make up the WTC
responder program in New York City will end on June 30 of this year unless
their existing cooperative agreements are extended for another year.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius informed the New York Delegation in
January of this year that it was her plan to provide for these extensions,
and all of the centers have submitted their applications. However with
less than seven weeks remaining in their current contracts, OMB has still not
approved these extensions.
Without this approval, the centers will soon be forced to begin notifying
their staff about potential layoffs and notifying their patients that the
clinics will no longer be able to provide them with treatment for their
WTC-related health conditions. The physicians at these centers have a moral
and legal obligation to give their patients adequate notice in order for the
patients to be able to make alternative arrangements for their care. All
of the clinics must begin preparing such notices within the next few weeks.
In addition to the WTC responder program, the City of New York is
awaiting final approval for $3.5 million in federal funding for its 9/11 Mental
Health and Substance Use Benefit Program. As you have discussed personally
with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the program provides mental health coverage for
those affected by the World Trade Center attacks and continues a similar
program funded by the Red Cross. Although the City developed its proposal
in collaboration with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health (NIOSH), the funding request has been pending for over seven months.
If this award is not finalized soon, the program may not be able to
provide needed mental health services through the end of the year.
Approval for funding for the World Trade Center Health Registry is also
pending. The WTC Health Registry gathers information about the physical and
mental health status of registrants who were exposed to environmental
contaminants for up to 20 years through regular health surveys and detailed
studies. Without a finalized budget that provides for adequate funding, the
Registry will have to eliminate an upcoming 2010-2011 survey that would
ascertain health impacts 10 years post-9/11. It also would be unable to support
ongoing research on cancers and other potentially emerging conditions.
Please advise us of the reasons for the delays in these three programs and
why your agency continues to withhold funding. These responders
sacrificed their health for our country, and there is no excuse for the continued
bureaucratic delays that threaten their badly needed medical care.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Members of Congress
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney
(212) 860-0606 office
(646) 831-1649 cell