For the survivors of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, there is no way to remove the memory of the horror witnessed, the lives lost, or the physical and emotional suffering endured. However, there may be some justice in the form of monetary compensation that allows victims to move forward.
Each of the 50 states in the U.S. had at least one person who was present in one of the terror attacks; from a handful of residents of the states of Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Idaho (among others) to the more than 10,000 each from New York and New Jersey. Victims ranged in age from as young as two to their mid-80s.
Compensation is available through the Victim Compensation Fund, or VCF. This fund is now fully funded under the “Never Forget the Heroes, James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act,” which was officially enacted in 2019. Eligible claimants can file a claim until the October 1, 2090. Wondering if you are eligible for VCF compensation? Read on to learn more about types of compensation and eligibility requirements.
Getting VCF compensation eligibility
To be eligible for compensation from the VCF, there must be a certifiable “physical injury or condition caused by the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of 9/11, or the rescue, recovery, and debris removal efforts during the immediate aftermath.” Conditions are certified by the World Trade Center Health Program (WTC Health Program). Among the most commonly certified illnesses and diseases are (as of December 31, 2020):
- Aerodigestive: Nearly 45,000 certified cases
- Cancers: Approximately 20,000 certified cases
- Mental health issues: More than 18,200 certified cases
- Musculoskeletal and acute traumatic injuries: About 570 cases
Application to the WTC Health program may be completed online or by downloading the form, filling it out, and sending it in by fax or mail. Please note that emailed applications are not accepted.
Without any prior disability determination, the VCF may accept applications based on a detailed evaluation by the victim’s treating physician. In certain circumstances, the VCF may permit a World Trade Center Health Program disability evaluation, upon request. (In order to qualify for a disability evaluation, a victim must already be an enrolled member of the WTC Health Program and “not already have a disability determination for an eligible condition from one of the standard third-party entities or sources; e.g., Social Security Administration, FDNY/NYPD, a state Workers’ Compensation program, or insurance company). Claimants who have a disability decision based on an ineligible condition may be candidates for the program if their eligible condition has become disabling.”
Average VCF payout relies on the review process
Once it has been determined that a victim has met the eligibility criteria—that they have a condition caused by the terror attacks on 9/11—the claims review process begins. In order to assess the loss and calculate the compensation, three questions are addressed:
- “Was there demonstrable loss?”
- “Can it be concluded that the loss was related to a 9/11 WTC eligible condition?”
- “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:
Compensation for economic losses
Economic losses tend to be the easiest to calculate as they are measurable. This doesn’t mean the calculation is not complex. For many, the loss of earnings and benefits—both past and expected future losses—is the major concern. Among the things that will be taken into count when determining economic compensation is whether the claimant is unable to work due to his or her certified condition. Proof that may be required includes:
- Determinations of 9/11-related disability from Social Security Disability (SSD), workers’ compensation, or a private disability insurer.
- Information about earnings and benefits, such as tax returns, W2 or 1099 forms, or other business documents/profit-loss statements.
- Medical records detailing a certified 9/11-related illness or condition, or a disability evaluation.
Required documentation is different for active military personnel and certain federal employees, New York Police Department (NYPD) and New York Fire Department (NYFD) claimants.
Beyond loss of income, the VCF may also compensate for household or yard services, caregiving help, or transportation expenses, if a victim’s certified condition means they can no longer function in these areas.
The VCF caps economic loss at $200,000 per year. The loss of earnings award is offset by pension, Social Security Disability (SSD) or private disability insurance.
Compensation for non-economic losses
The 9/11 Compensation Fund will award money to compensate for noneconomic loss, also known as pain and suffering. Noneconomic loss awards are presumed amounts based on the type of illness claimed. The noneconomic loss award can be increased by presenting evidence of a significant effect on activities of daily living (ADLs). The six basic ADLs include the ability to ambulate (move and walk); feed oneself; get dressed; attend to personal hygiene (wash, bathe, brush teeth, etc.); control one’s own bladder and bowel functions; and toileting.
Pain and suffering awards may also be increased by providing evidence of surgery or chemotherapy. In addition to cases of physical pain and suffering, the VCF may also make pain and suffering awards in cases of mental anguish, loss of consortium, loss of society and companionship, among others.
There is a cap on certain types of non-economic awards
According to VCF.gov, the maximum noneconomic award for any single type of cancer is $250,000, except skin cancer, which is in the range of $90,000. The maximum noneconomic award for any one type of noncancerous condition is $90,000.
Emphysema, interstitial lung disease (including asbestosis) and sarcoidosis are considered so severe that they will warrant the highest possible noncancerous award of $90,000 without the need for further documentation. However, there are limited exceptions where the $90,000 cap can be increased. Certain claimants with interstitial lung disease or other pulmonary illnesses suffer in the same way as a lung cancer victim. These claimants might require lung transplants or mechanical respiratory assistance on a daily basis. These claimants may receive the same award as someone with lung cancer.
Claims for the death of a loved one
While it is nearly impossible to put a price on the loss of a family member—husband, wife, or parent—upon whom one was dependent for emotional and financial sustenance, a claim can be filed. A death claim consists of the losses after the date of death with a presumed noneconomic loss of $250,000 plus $100,000 for the surviving spouse and for each additional dependent. There is an additional award for the pain and suffering from the date of injury to the date of death.
An attorney with experience in 9/11 claims can help maximize VCF payouts
Each award is calculated individually. The final award includes noneconomic loss plus economic loss minus collateral offsets. That doesn’t mean that each award cannot be maximized. Because the process for making a claim is complex and requires that deadlines must be met, steps followed, and each loss looked for as a potential source of compensation, a lawyer who understands the system can be of great assistance in helping claimants get full and fair compensation for the losses caused by one of the most disastrous and tragic events in U.S. history.
Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP has a track record of helping victims of 9/11 get the compensation they and their families need to move forward. While each case is individual, we have successfully settled a number of claims for 9/11 survivors and families of the deceased.
Contact one of our 9/11 compensation lawyers today
To learn more about how we can help you maximize your 9/11 VCF payout, contact us online or call us at 212-983-3000 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation and your needs.