According to an article published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report entitled “Rapid Assessment of Injuries Among Survivors of the Terrorist Attack on the World Trade Center, New York City, September 2001,” 1,688 people were treated in emergency departments in the hours and days that followed the disaster. However, many thousands more—the CDC estimates as many as 400,000—were injured or became ill from exposure to the toxic dust cloud and as a result of cleanup activities in and around ground zero. Many of these illnesses and medical conditions were the result of longer-term exposure or did not manifest themselves for weeks, months, or even a year or more.
While compensation is available to victims and survivors of the attack, proof of presence is required. This means that a person seeking compensation (a claimant) needs to show, through documentation, that they lived, were employed, went to school, were in day care or Adult Day Health Care, and/or took part in the cleanup, whether as a volunteer or as a paid worker, in a specified area between the dates of September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002, and have a certified 9/11-related medical condition.
The specified area is called the Exposure Zone, and it is “defined as the area in Manhattan south of the line that runs along Canal Street from the Hudson River to the intersection of Canal Street and East Broadway, north on East Broadway to Clinton Street, and east on Clinton Street to the East River; and any area related to or along the routes of debris removal, such as barges and Fresh Kills landfill.”
As 9/11 attorneys who have helped victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center get full and fair compensation for related medical conditions, we have compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that claimants have about providing proof of presence at the 9/11 exposure zone:
How do I prove my presence in the exposure zone?
The Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) requires that documentation be filed with any claim for monetary compensation, and that, first and foremost, a claimant has a 9/11-related medical condition as certified by the WTC Health Program. While the deadline for filing is October 1, 2090, it’s imperative that a claimant obtains any and all necessary proof as soon as possible. An article in the Wall Street Journal in November of 2019 points out that “as the years pass and as people retire, businesses close and official documents are purged, new applicants to the fund are having greater difficulty obtaining the critical records to establish the ‘proof of presence’ for a claim.”
Why do I have to prove that I was in the exposure zone between 9/11 and May 30, 2002?
Nobody has to prove that they were in the exposure zone for the entire time frame; however, there may be a minimum number of hours of exposure. This is called Duration of Exposure, which is “based on the estimated number of hours the individual spent at a 9/11 location during an eligible time interval” for specified activities within the exposure zone. Because of the many types of medical conditions that the WTC Health Care Program certifies, including certain cancers, airway and digestive disorders, and mental health conditions, among others, there are variables. Generally speaking, however, providing proof of presence in the exposure zone is a requirement for VCF claimants.
What are the typical documents that help prove presence?
According to the VCF checklist, a claimant must file two forms of written proof of presence within the NYC exposure zone within the 9/11/2001 and 5/30/2002 timeframe. Acceptable documents include:
- Employer records: Such as a letter from the employer confirming work at the site, an official personnel roster and site credentials confirming work at the site; workers’ injury reports (documenting on-site injury), or a pay stub showing dates of work and location of the site.
- Proof of residence in the area during the relevant time period: Such as rent or mortgage receipts, utility bills and proof that the victim (claimant) was physically present at the site between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002. (A sworn statement from a witness who can attest to the claimant’s presence at the residence is sufficient.)
- Any contemporaneous document that shows the victim’s location at the site: Such as orders, instructions, confirmation of tasks performed, medical record (documenting treatment as a result of injury that occurred at the site), or school or daycare records confirming enrollment or attendance during the period.
- Sworn and notarized affidavits (or unsworn statements that comply with 28 U.S.C 1746) regarding the presence of the victim from persons who can attest to the victim’s presence at the 9/11 crash site.
Can I file a 9/11 claim without proof of presence?
In many cases, certain employers or entities have arrangements and can supply proof-of-presence documentation to the VCF directly on behalf of an employee or worker claimant include Consolidated Edison (Con Ed), the American Red Cross, the FBI, the National Guard, Lucent Technologies, The New York State Police and others.
Active FDNY firefighters who worked on 9/11 do not need to document proof-of-presence. In virtually every other case, documentation is required.
How can hiring a VCF attorney help?
Like many government programs, filing a claim for VCF economic compensation is a complex process that requires not only proof-of-presence documentation, but deadlines that must be met and specific and detailed legal responses to requests they may have for additional information or clarification. In order to ensure that victims get the full and fair compensation they deserve, it is in their best interest to work with a VCF attorney experienced in VCF claims.
The lawyers at Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP fight for victims and survivors of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center
To learn more about how our skilled 9/11 attorneys can help, contact us online or call us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your needs, answer your questions, and get you the most possible compensation.