9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Frequently Asked Questions

No, VCF claims do not require the assistance of an attorney. However, having a knowledgeable 9/11 lawyer can help victims more easily navigate the VCF claims system to ensure the best possible award of compensation, regardless of whether an attorney is required to file the claim.

  • A 9/11 victim’s attorney knows that helping the client understand the VCF claims process and knowing what to look for, where to find it, and how to avoid potential issues is essential.
  • Having the guidance of a 9/11 lawyer will ease confusion and speed up the process of filing a claim, allowing people dealing with a 9/11-related illness or the death of a family member from a 9/11-related medical condition to move forward with greater peace of mind.
  •  An attorney ensuring 9/11 compensation is accurate, complete, and timely does the following:
    • Getting the claimant registered: Having an experienced attorney register claimants immediately helps prevent invalid claims from being denied.
    • To assist claimants with obtaining important documents to establish their presence in the Exposure Zone: Our attorneys can also prepare witness affidavits and provide sworn testimony.
    • Assistance in obtaining medical records for WTC Health Program patients or personal records for patients who maintain ongoing treatment for illnesses or conditions related to 9/11.
    • Assisting with non-economic loss documentation: While they are not vital, they are important when it comes to filing a successful pain and suffering claim.

To qualify for Victim Compensation Fund, a claimant must provide proof of presence in the NYC exposure zone (or the Personal Representative of a deceased victim if he or she is deceased). This includes first responders, out of state responders, construction workers, volunteers who cleaned up debris, residents, students, workers, and anyone enrolled in adult care or day care.

You will need to submit the following documents with your claim:

  • Letter of employment confirming your presence at the site.
  • Proof of residency in the area of the attack.
  • Any document that proofs the victim’s location at Ground Zero during the time of the attack.
  • Documentation from persons who attest to the victim’s presence at the 9/11 crash site through a sworn and notarized affidavit (or unsworn statement in compliance with the 28 U.S.C. 1746).

Before you submit your VCF claim for your 9/11 cancer, you will need to find out your latency period (the amount of time that elapses between the initial exposure to a carcinogen and the diagnosis of cancer).

You are not eligible for compensation or treatment if you have a cancer diagnosis after 9/11 but before the latency period for that type of cancer.

The World Trade Center Health Program and the Environmental Protection Agency determined minimum latencies for the following five types or categories of cancer:

  • Mesothelioma – 11 years.
  • Solid cancers (not including mesothelioma, lymphoproliferative, thyroid and childhood cancers) – four years.
  • Lymphoproliferative and hematopoietic cancers (including all types of leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma) – 146 days.
  • Thyroid cancer – two and a half years.
  • Childhood cancers (excluding lymphoproliferative and hematopoietic cancers) – one year.

Everyone has a different Registration Deadline. The Registration Deadline varies based on the type of claim.

For death claims, registration may be made up to two years after the date of certification by WTC Health Program or two years after the date of death. Please note that registering in a timely fashion does not guarantee compensation. A person’s eligibility depends on the degree of exposure and the date of diagnosis.

Following the determination that a victim meets the eligibility criteria-that their condition was caused by the 9/11 terrorist attacks-the review of their claim begins. Three questions must be answered for an accurate assessment of the loss and calculation of compensation:

  1. “Was there demonstrable loss?”
  2. “Can it be concluded that the loss was related to a 9/11 WTC eligible condition?”
  3. “What makes sense in the context of this claimant and the individual circumstances of this claim?”

The next step is to determine what types of compensation a victim may be entitled to receive.

Unlike cancer, aerodigestive disorders have a maximum number of months in which symptoms must occur. To be eligible for compensation, you must have developed symptoms within five years of the last toxic exposure. There is a maximum time interval of five years for all presumptively covered gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and interstitial lung diseases.

The World Trade Center Health Program is a health program launched in July 2011 to provide medical monitoring and treatment to 9/11 first responders and survivors who suffer health conditions in the World Trade Center terrorist attack—especially from exposure to the toxic dust caused by the collapse of the Twin Towers—as well as the Pentagon, and the crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

First responders include those who worked or volunteered in onsite rescue, recovery, demolition, debris cleanup, or related support services in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. Those included who may be eligible for WTC Health Program benefits include:

  • New York City firefighters (NYFD) involved in the rescue and recovery efforts, as well as surviving family members who may be eligible for mental health treatment
  • World Trade Center (WTC) general responders who worked or volunteered onsite in rescue, recovery, debris cleanup, or related support services:
    • New York City police (NYPD)
    • Port Authority police (PAPD)
    • Port Authority tunnel workers, including vehicle maintenance workers
    • Employees of the Chief Medical Examiner of NYC or other morgue workers
  • Those who performed rescue, recovery, demolition, debris cleanup, or other related services at the Pentagon or the Shanksville crash site

Survivors of the terrorist attack in New York City may also be eligible for benefits from the WTC Health Program. Eligible participants include those who lived, worked, went to school, or attended child or adult day care in the New York City disaster area on September 11th within a certain timeframe following the attack.

Treatment is provided through Clinical Centers of Excellence (CCE) in the New York metro area as well as National Provider Network (NPN) for those outside the metropolitan area.

In addition to providing medical treatment and monitoring benefits, the WTC Health Program “conducts scientific research to better identify, diagnose, and treat physical and mental health conditions related to 9/11 exposures.”

Usually referred to simply as “the Zadroga Act,” the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 was signed into law on January 2, 2011 by President Barack Obama. This act amended and modified its predecessor, the Public Health Service Act, to improve protections and services for first responders, survivors, and families impacted by 9/11.

Passage of the Zadroga Act was instrumental in creating or reauthorizing:

  • The WTC Health Program to monitor and treat 9/11 responders and survivors. Through the act, the administrative structure was formed and a criteria for enrollment, certification, treatment and health monitoring was established.
  • The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which provides monetary compensation to those who were present at the WTC site or in the NYC Exposure Zone, the Pentagon or at the crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania “at some point between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002, and who have since been diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness.”
  • The WTC Health Registry, whose mission is to research the “long-term physical and mental health effects of 9/11.”

The Program was reauthorized in 2015. In 2019, legislation was passed that allowed an increase in the number of people who could be “newly enrolled into the WTC Health Program.” Moreover, as the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, it extended the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund file claim deadline to October 1, 2090 and ensures that all approved claims will be paid.

Although both the WTC Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund are part of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, they are administered by different government agencies, serve different functions, and have different eligibility and application processes:

  • The WTC Health Program is administered by the National Institute for Safety & Health (NIOSH), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to provide no-cost, medically necessary treatment and monitoring to those who suffer from certified physical or mental 9/11 illnesses or medical conditions.
  • The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). It provides financial compensation to individuals (or through a personal representative, family members of deceased individuals) who were present at the WTC site, the New York City Exposure Zone, the Pentagon or the Shanksville, PA crash site, and who have since been diagnosed with a certified 9/11-related illness. The VCF provides financial benefits for eligible survivors and responders but does not compensate for mental illness.

It is a 9/11 victim’s right to have a “designated representative” help in applying for WTC Health Program benefits. A designated representative can be a family member, friend, advocate, or an attorney. Choosing a knowledgeable 9/11 lawyer may be advantageous as he or she has experience in navigating the system, gathering required documentation, and submitting complete, timely and accurate applications. Appointing a designated representative means authorizing them to act on behalf of the applicant in administrative interests only. A designated representative, whether a lawyer or other entity, does not make decisions regarding medical treatment or care.

According to the WTC Health Care Program, a lawyer or other representative has the authority to:

  • Serve as the applicant’s representative in all matters pertaining to (the applicants) membership in the WTC Health Program
  • Receive and/or provide information pertaining to an applicant’s membership and participation in the WTC Health Program, including copies of factual and medical evidence contained in their records for the Program
  • Make a request or give direction to the Program regarding eligibility, certification, or any other administrative issue.
  • Assistance with appeals for denial of a health condition certification or decertification of a health condition.

9/11 fund lawyers may be of particular benefit in appeals, as they understand the process. They know what is required and will represent the best interests of the victim whose certification has been denied.

The “wildly toxic” 9/11 dust that resulted from the collapse of the World Trade Center contained a number of contaminants, including known carcinogenic particles and chemicals such as asbestos, fiberglass, mercury and benzene.

To date, the WTC Health Program has identified and certified a number of cancers linked to physical exposure to the toxic dust, including:

  • Blood and lymphoid tissue (including lymphoma, myeloma, and leukemia)
  • Breast
  • Childhood cancers
  • Digestive system (including colon and rectum)
  • Eye and orbit
  • Ovary
  • Head and neck (oropharynx and tonsil)
  • Prostate
  • Mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure
  • Respiratory system (including lung and bronchus)
  • Skin (melanoma, non-melanoma and carcinoma in situ)
  • Soft and connective tissue
  • Thyroid
  • Urinary system (including kidney and bladder)

In March 2014, the WTC Health Program added so-called “rare cancers” to its list of certified 9/11 cancers. They include:

  • Malignant neoplasms of the adrenal gland and other endocrine glands/related structures; anus and anal canal; bone and articular cartilage; male breast cancer; gallbladder/biliary tract; meninges, brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves/parts of central nervous system; pancreas; penis/testes; placenta; small intestine; thymus, invasive cancer of the vulva, vagina, and cervix uteri
  • Malignant neuroendocrine neoplasm/carcinoid tumors, including myelodysplastic syndromes; myeloproliferative neoplasm; myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative neoplasms; myeloid malignancies associated with eosinophilia and abnormalities of growth factor receptors derived from platelets or fibroblasts

As research continues, more cancers found among 9/11 survivors, responders, and victims are added to the WTC Health Program’s list of certified medical conditions. Because cancer can take years or even decades to manifest itself, anybody exposed to the dust at Ground Zero or within the New York City Disaster Area is encouraged to enroll in the WTC Health Program.

Documentation needed depends on the eligible group.

First responders need to show proof that they were working at one of the attack sites (World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or the Shanksville crash site). All of the following information is required:

  • What type of work was performed (for instance: rescue, recovery, demolition, construction)
  • Address and/or street name (location) where work was performed
  • The time period worked at any given location (date range)
  • How many hours per day, week, or month worked at each location

Survivors may include those who worked, lived, went to school or were in adult or child daycare, or were otherwise present in the NYC Disaster Area within a specified timeframe. Documentation must show one or more of the following:

  • Address of home, workplace, school, daycare center, or adult daycare center and dates of residence or attendance
  • Proof of presence within the NYC Disaster Area and confirmation of exposure to the dust or dust cloud on September 11, 2001; or
  • Proof of eligibility to receive a residential grant from Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC)
  • Residential Grant Program or proof of applicant’s employer receiving a LMDC grant

Specified timeframes depend on circumstances but may include any period of time of presence in the dust cloud on 9/11. Those who lived, worked, or went to school in the Disaster Area and those who performed maintenance and had extensive exposure to the dust but do not meet responder criteria have different timeframes and minimum exposure requirements.

A lawyer with 9/11 VCF fund and WTC Health Program experience can help collect evidence and documentation needed to enroll in the Program. Contact us today for a free consultation at 332-239-1952

Go to Top