A Day that Changed America
On September 11, 2001, nineteen men affiliated with the terrorist group Al Qaeda forever altered the world’s political and economic stage when they attacked the United States by hijacking and crashing four airplanes, destroying The World Trade Center, damaging the Pentagon, crashing a plane in Pennsylvania, and killing close to 3,000 people. Emergency personnel and first responders, including firefighters, police, urban search and rescue teams, and everyday citizens heeded the call and heroically ran towards the disasters. Years after this fateful day, these brave heroes and untold thousands of innocent bystanders, especially in New York, have suffered deleterious—and catastrophic—health effects from toxic exposure to the disaster zones.
In response, Congress created the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which provides financial relief for individuals (or their representative, if the victim is deceased) who were exposed between the dates of September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002, and have been diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness, including a multitude of cancers, respiratory illnesses, and digestive diseases. Victims are entitled to compensation whether they were first responders, clean-up crew members, or lived, worked, or attended school near the New York exposure zone.
Applying for the Victim Compensation Fund in 7 Easy Steps
The key to a successful claim is being well-organized. The following 7 steps serve as a guideline to help victims understand the process, prepare appropriate documentation, and meet deadlines.
How to Begin
Before submitting a claim to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, victims must have their health conditions verified and certified.
Step 1 – Register and Submit a Claim
Victims whose conditions were certified by the WTC Health Program before July 29, 2019 must register with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund by July 29, 2021; those whose conditions were certified by the WTC Health Program after July 29, 2019 have until two years after their certification date to register with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
- After being certified by the WTC Health Program, victims may file their online claim using their assigned September 11th Victim Compensation Fund claim number. The filing deadline is the same for everyone: October 1, 2090. The online claim form includes questions that inform the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund about eligibility and the type of compensation sought, and offers the opportunity to upload supporting documentation.
Once a claim is submitted, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund will review all the documentation in order to determine eligibility.
Step 2 – Conduct Preliminary Review
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund reviews all documents and forms required to process the claim. It is critical that claimants submit all required documentation, including the Signature Page, Exhibit A, The Authorization for the Release of Medical Records, and a Victim Presence Statement, among others. An attorney can help victims determine which forms they need to fill out and verify that all documentation is correct and complete.
Once all the documents and forms have been verified, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund contacts the WTC Health Program to verify the victim’s certified health condition.
It’s possible the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund may request information from government entities, employers, and other third parties. If documents are missing, the claim cannot be processed and will be marked “inactive.” Claimants have 60 days to provide requested documentation; if no response is received, the claim may be denied. Consulting a knowledgeable attorney before submitting a claim can ensure that there are no missing documents.
Step 3 – Substantive Eligibility Review
After the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund has received all the necessary documents, they will begin processing the claim to determine whether the victim is eligible for compensation. This entails reviewing each document to verify the victim’s presence at the site, that they met the application deadline, confirming the certified health condition, and, if applicable, validating the victim’s Personal or Authorized representative. If the claim is found to be missing documentation, victims will receive a “Missing Information” letter and will be given 30 days to respond.
Step 4 – Render Eligibility Decision
Once the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund renders a decision on the claim, they send a letter to the victim explaining the outcome. If approved, the claim moves on to the compensation stage; if denied, the claim goes no further. However, victims have a right to appeal a denied claim; an attorney can help appeal the decision by amending the claim and submitting it for reconsideration.
After a claim is approved, a decision is made about how victims will be compensated.
Step 5 – Conduct Initial Compensation Review
After a victim’s eligibility is approved, a determination is made about what type of compensation they are entitled to: economic or non-economic. If the claim is for an economic loss, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund contacts third parties, such as Social Security and employers, to request information on pensions, disability, and, if applicable, further earnings history. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund may request further documentation at this point. If the claim is non-economic, the claim goes directly to the next step.
Step 6 – Complete Compensation Review & Calculate Award
At this point, the award is calculated based on economic loss (past and future lost earnings) and non-economic loss (pain and suffering). Each claim is calculated and awarded on an individual basis, and may be offset by payments from the SSA or pensions funds and insurance.
Step 7 – Issue Award Decision and Process Payment
Finally, a letter detailing the calculated award is sent. Those who feel the award is in error have 30 days to appeal the decision. If there is no appeal, payment will be authorized within 20 days after the 30-day appeal process. Once authorized, it can take up to 3 weeks for the U.S. Treasury to transfer funds to the claimant’s bank account and send a letter confirming payment.
How an attorney at Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP can help
Applying for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund can be daunting, but Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP is here to help ease the process. We focus on helping 9/11 victims and their families receive the maximum compensation to which they are entitled. Contact Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP for a free and confidential consultation.