The events of September 11, 2001 will be forever etched in the memory of people across America and around the world. But for New Yorkers and others who were near the World Trade Center on that day, it is often more than a painful memory: they may be among the thousands who bear the losses, the scars, the injuries, or the illnesses incurred as a result of the terrorist attack. Here are just a few statistics:
- More than 2,700 people were killed in the 9/11 attack on the WTC. Of that, the majority were civilians – including three under the age of five. First responders and civilians alike who perished left-behind parents, husbands and wives, children, and others who loved and depended on them.
- Approximately 10,000 people suffered injuries directly related to the attack ranging from broken bones and lacerations to severe burns and brain or spinal cord injuries.
- Many first responders, workers, residents, visitors, and passers-by who were in the area of the World Trade Center on 9/11 experienced illnesses or diseases, including cancers, linked to exposure to the toxic dust cloud created by the collapse of the twin towers. As of December 2020, nearly 108,000 people have enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program (WTC Health Program) for treatment of health conditions caused by the attack.
Compensation through the Victim’s Compensation Fund (VCF)
The VCF fund is administered by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and was established to provide “financial compensation for those who have been diagnosed with an eligible 9/11-related illness, and who meet the VCF’s eligibility criteria.” The criteria includes:
- Presence in one of the attack sites, at the World Trade Center (Ground Zero) or in the New York City Exposure Zone, or along the route of debris removal between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002.
- Certification for treatment of a “9/11-related physical injury or condition” by the WTC Health Program. Under certain circumstances, the physical injury or condition was treated by a personal physician and verified as being 9/11 related.
- 9/11 lawsuits must be withdrawn, dismissed, or settled by the appropriate deadline.
- In cases where an award was received under the original September 11th Victim Compensation Fund that operated from 2001-2004 (“VCF1”), the eligible injury or condition must have “substantially worsened, or that there is a new physical injury or condition not suffered at the time of the VCF1 claim filing or which was not compensable at the time of VCF1”; and that there is no prior full compensation for losses.
- Those filing on a victim’s behalf (such as a Personal Representative filing on behalf of a deceased victim or incapacitated adult) must show proof of legal authority to do so.
Steps to take and VCF filing deadlines to meet in the VCF compensation process
First and foremost, any eligible person should register for the World Trade Center Help Program and the Victim’s Compensation Fund, whether there is an active illness or cancer or not. The WTC Health Program, administered by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), offers no-cost resources for survivors—including initial health screenings, annual monitoring exams for first responders, and “certified-eligible” survivors, treatment for 9/11-related conditions and illnesses, and pharmacy benefits.
Those who are eligible should complete a WTC Health Program application to get the benefits of the program. It is important to note that the WTC Health Program and the Victim Compensation Program are NOT the same, and must be applied for separately.
While the WTC Health Program provides medical treatment and care, the VCF provides monetary compensation to cover economic losses—such as lost wages, out-of-pocket medical expenses, and household replacement services. “Pain and suffering” may include loss of enjoyment, the inability to conduct daily activities, and literal physical pain. While it is considered a non-economic loss, it is still compensable under the VCF.
VCF deadlines must be met to make a claim. There is a difference between registering for a VCF claim and filing a claim. As per the VCF website, “registration preserves the right to file your claim in the future, waives no legal rights, and does not obligate you to file a claim.”
However, it is important that registration is completed on or before July 29, 2021, and will be considered timely, regardless of the date of diagnosis. Registration can be made later so long as it is within two years from the date of certification by the WTC Health Program or two years from the date of death for death claims. Please note that registering in a timely fashion does not ensure compensation. Eligibility is based on the extent of exposure and date of diagnosis.
Under H.R. 1327, also known as the “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act,” those who have registered have until October 1, 2090. Additional modifications to the original bill include:
- Requires VCF policies and procedures to be reassessed at least once every five years (currently, at least once annually).
- Requires claimants to be paid for the amount by which a claim was reduced based on insufficient funding.
- Removes the cap on noneconomic damages in certain circumstances.
- Periodically adjusts the annual limit on economic loss compensation for inflation.
Helping to ensure the best possible outcome for a 9/11 VCF claim
Getting monetary compensation through the VCF means meeting deadlines, submitting complete and accurate applications, and understanding how to navigate a complex government process. The law firm of Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP has the skill, experience, and passion to help victims get justice and get on with their lives. It’s more than “how much time do I have to make a VCF claim,” it’s how we make sure that our clients’ claims are paid quickly, fairly, and fully. To that end we are committed to:
- Fighting aggressively for the best possible compensation
- Treating clients with the dignity, compassion, and respect they deserve
- Explaining the process along each step of the way
- Communicating updates and responding to questions or concerns in a timely manner
Trust a Recognized Law Firm
At Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP, we have a reputation for getting results for workers and other individuals who developed illnesses following the September 11th terrorist attacks. If you are eligible for a claim through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, our lawyers can help you meet vcf filing deadlines, and walk you through the complex claim process. Call 212-983-3000 or email our office for a free consultation.