WASHINGTON — A program supposed to monitor the
health of thousands of federal workers who answered the call of 9/11
has been lost for more than two years, the Daily News has learned.
"We seem to have inherited our own Loch Ness monster in terms of being
able to find this monitoring," said Jon Adler, vice president of the
Federal Law Enforcement Officers' Association.
Programs were developed to check on the health of every other group
that rushed to Ground Zero during and after the Sept. 11 attacks,
primarily the World Trade Center Medical Screening Program run by the
Mount Sinai Medical Center. Officials involved told The News the feds
barred their workers from that program because they were setting up
Unfortunately, that program vanished during the bureaucratic shuffle creating the Department of Homeland Security.
After trying for months to find out what happened, Manhattan Rep.
Carolyn Maloney's office was able to uncover only that a branch of the
Department of Health and Human Services got $3.7 million for the work.
But it started and stopped in 2003, seeing fewer than 600 people.
"I was told there was a 'lull,'" said Maloney, who fired off a letter
to HHS yesterday seeking explanations. "This is unacceptable, these men
and women are certainly not experiencing a lull in the health effects
they are suffering from exposure to toxins at Ground Zero."
An HHS spokesman insisted the program had not been lost, but that
screeners with the Federal Occupational Health Service ran into more
problems than they expected.
"It was put on a temporary hold while we have been fixing those
problems," said Bill Hall, an HHS spokesman. He could not explain the
problems or why monitoring stopped for more than two years. He said it
would resume soon with workers who signed up originally.
But of nearly a dozen federal law enforcers contacted by The News, only one said he ever got a chance to ask for monitoring.
"We're not asking for anything crazy," said an investigator who wants
to sign up. "We just want someone to take a look at us in case, God
forbid, 20 years down the line we start getting some strange kinds of
cancer from everything we were exposed to down there."
Originally published on August 26, 2005