Fight Continues To Replenish 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund

First responders Washington
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- They're not giving up and they're not taking "no" for an answer.

More than 20 9/11 first responders are back in Washington on Wednesday to lobby for a replenished victims compensation fund.

Retired firefighter Rob Serra has made nearly 20 of these trips.

His first day as a New York City firefighter was Sept. 11, 2001. Now, the 39-year-old is facing the consequences. 

"I have nodules on my thyroid and my lymphnodes, I have GERD, sleep apnea," Serra said. With an explosion of cancers, he knows it could be worse. "We're all just waiting for the other shoe to drop."

When he makes his way through Congress, Serra's neuropathy confines him to a wheelchair. He feels compelled to lobby for those who have yet to get sick and for those facing unfathomable choices.

"The cancer's not going to stop just because the bill is out of money. There's still going to be people like me with young kids who still have to put food on the table. The kids have got to go to college. How are you going to make that choice?" Serra said. "Am I going to go to Sloan? Am I going to pay for this $40,000 experimental treatment that's going to save my life or am I going to just die and let my kids go to college. Cause that's what it comes down to for a lot of these people." 

Despite his multiple medical problems Serra tries to focus on the positive. He's home with his 5-year-old, who's the youngest of three.

"My wife pointed out to me that I'm actually lucky cause we have such a great relationship. Because I'm home all the time and I talk to him. We're buddies," Serra said.

The 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, which was created by the federal government in 2011, protects families from financial ruin, but with new victims filing every day the money is running dry.

The fund expires in 2020.

Long Island Rep. Peter King is among those leading efforts in Congress to make the fund permanent and he says so far there are 228 co-sponsors of the bill.

"This is more than enough to pass the House," King said. "I don't know of anyone who's opposed to it. Some people haven't signed on yet but I think it's only a matter of time. I believe if it came to a vote on the House vote there'd be between 300 and 400 votes for it, maybe even more than that."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who supports the bill, will decide when it will come to a full vote on the House floor.

King says he's "very optimistic" the bill will pass both the House and Senate.