On September 10 there was another one of those very important stories that made the front page for a day or two – and then, in all the news noise, vanished:
According to the story:
“The Trump administration has secretly siphoned nearly $4 million away from a program that tracks and treats FDNY firefighters and medics suffering from 9/11 related illnesses, the Daily News has learned.”
“The Treasury Department mysteriously started withholding parts of payments – nearly four years ago – meant to cover medical services for firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics treated by the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program, documents obtained by The News reveal.”
What is the FDNY (Fire Department of New York) World Trade Center Health Program? Their website says they…
“…provide comprehensive physical and mental health services to all active and retired FDNY members who responded to the 9/11 attacks…This treatment continued in the disaster’s aftermath to provide physical and mental health treatment to our rescue and recovery workers in the days, months, and now years, after.”
The Daily News story references Dr. David Prezant, FDNY Chief Medical Officer, who was painfully aware that money was being withheld:
“Prezant said he was docked about half a million dollars each year in 2016 and 2017. Then it crept up to about $630,000 in 2018 and 2019. This year, Treasury has nearly tripled its extractions, diverting $1.447 million through late August.”
On September 11, other media outlets picked up the story.
The total amount?
So now we know who did this: The Treasury Department, led by Stinking Steve Mnuchin.
We know how much: $3.7 million.
Various articles said that Dr. Prezant ws never able to get an explanation from the National Institute of Occupationsl Safety and Health, or the mammoth Department of Health and Human Services which has the agency under its umbrella.
He finally got a partial answer when Long Island Republican Representative Pete King put his political weight behind the inquiry.
That answer was that some other agency in the city had been in an unrelated feud with the feds over Medicare bills.
So the Treasury Department decided to stiff the FDNY.
Now that they’d been exposed, came this:
Yes: An apology on September 11, the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country, the day first responders were risking their health – and their lives – running toward the World Trade Center.
The Trump administration apologized for stealing healthcare money from those very same first responders.
The story begins,
“The Trump administration apologized Friday for stripping millions of dollars from an FDNY fund that foots healthcare bills for 9/11 survivors and promised to put an end to the heartless practice.”
Fortunately, I found some clarification on Snopes.com:
“It’s true that the Trump administration has been withholding money from the program, the result of what appears to be a bureaucratic blunder – namely, the way the Department of Treasury tracks and collects on debts owed to the federal government.
“The Department of Treasury…stated that the department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service is required to ‘offset federal payments for the collection of delinquent debts owed to the United States.’ The Treasury Department’s program to offset such debts uses a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) to link payees and debtors.
“Some payees – such as New York City – use a single TIN for many of their subdivisions, which can result in a payment for one component of the payee being subject to offset for a debt by another component of the payee. That is what happened in this case.”
As I said: convoluted, inane and unacceptable.
And it gets worse. The Firehouse article quoted some dimbo named Rebecca Miller at the Treasury Department who said the administration took the FDNY cash to cover some of the city’s unrelated Medicare debt, which has piled up over the years. And…
“It’s wrong, it shouldn’t happen this way, and we are doing everything that we can, working with the city to try and fix this really unfortunate situation. But at the end of the day, there are administrative hurdles and to a certain extent, our hands are tied by our statutory obligations.”
I’m sure the FDNY is taking great comfort in that, and in this from “our-hands-are-tied” Miller:
“The issue has been elevated to the highest level. We’re trying to get creative here.”
I started looking online every day for updates. Surely, now that the Trump Administration had been caught ripping off 9/11 first responders, they’d do more than apologize?
As in, give the $3.7 million back to the FDNY?
But I found no stories saying so.
September 13: Nothing.
September 14: Nothing.
September 15, September 16, September 17…
And then finally, on September 18, the New York Daily News, with what had to be the Best Headline of the Day:
The article says:
“The U.S. Treasury Department has claimed for a week that it was bound by law to take millions of dollars away from the New York City Fire Department’s treatment fund, but a review by the Daily News and by lawmakers irate over the vanishing dollars found that is not the case.”
So the Treasury Department, let by Stinking Steve Mnuchin, one of Trump’s top toadies, said, in effect, “Not our fault! We were bound by law to take the money!”
“Treasury officials began telling lawmakers, including in a letter to Representative Pete King, that taking the money was a matter of law, required because unrelated city departments owe debts to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It is not clear yet what those debts are.”
Nice try, Stinking Steve. Except for one little problem:
“The department did not note that its own website includes a disclaimer saying Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has the authority to exempt programs from the offsets.”
“The bureaucratic language on the Treasury Department’s website explains it this way: ‘The Secretary may exempt other payments [from offsets] if the head of the paying agency demonstrates that offset would substantially interfere with Congress’s purpose for the payment agency’s program.’”
In case Mnuchin’s perfidy wasn’t crystal clear, the article made it so:
“Congress’ purpose in creating the FDNY’s 9/11 treatment program was to care for firefighters and EMTs harmed by their service at Ground Zero.”
Then came this from Representative Pete King, and the Best Headline of the Day, above:
“It’s their [expletive] job to make sure that the FDNY gets the money, and they can find a way. It’s as simple as that. The Treasury Secretary can do it, the administration can do it. And rather than have everybody try to jump through hoops – just do it. I mean, I can’t believe that the federal government, if it screws somebody in the first place, can’t change direction.”
On September 17, the New York congressional delegation sent a letter to Stinking Steve Mnuchin.
New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer were also on board.
On September 18 Gillibrand and Schumer sent a letter to Stinking Steve Mnuchin.
And since then…
September 19: Nothing.
September 20: Nothing.
September 21: Is today the day?
Is today the day Stinking Steve – with Trump’s OK, of course, because Mnuchin doesn’t inhale, or exhale, without Trump’s say-so – is today the day Stinking Steve will stop stealing money from the FDNY and return the $3.7 million?
Or will the New York first responders just keep waiting for their healthcare funding to be returned, while Mnuchin and the other bottom feeders at the Treasury Department prevaricate, dissimulate, and outright lie?
Finally…going back to the title of this post:
Someone Will Burn In Hell For This – But Who?
I think we know: