The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) provides compensation to individuals (or a family member of a deceased person) who were present during the 9/11 attacks and exposed to toxic dust.
This includes not only first responders but also anyone who worked or volunteered in construction or the clean-up process — as well as anyone who lived, worked, or went to school in the NYC exposure zone, the Pentagon crash site or the Shanksville, Pennsylvania crash site.
Any individual who was present at these locations between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002, and has since been diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness can register for the VCF.
An estimated 400,000 workers, residents, students, and passersby were exposed to the toxic dust cloud — many of whom are unaware that they can register with the fund and claim compensation.
Here, we explain what it means to register for the fund and how victims can go about the process.
First steps in the VCF claim process
The first step in claiming compensation for a 9/11-related sickness or injury is to register for the Victim Compensation Fund. This process is necessary to allow the fund administrators to determine the labor required to review and process future claims and to estimate a budget for the amounts to be paid out each year.
Once registered, a victim has the right to file a claim any time before October 2090.
Over 137,000 people have registered with the VCF to date. The fund has paid compensation of over $7.76 billion to more than 34,400 eligible claimants.
In particular, many people living, working, or attending school or daycare in the area have stepped forward in recent years as greater awareness about their eligibility for fund registration has spread.
How are 9/11 health conditions certified?
Since 2011, the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) has provided free medical treatment and medical monitoring services to those suffering from 9/11-related medical conditions.
The VCF uses the services of the WTCHP to determine whether a particular condition is 9/11-related. If a patient presents to the Program and is diagnosed with a covered condition, the claims process after registering with the VCF is generally quite straightforward.
Can a private physician certify you?
Medical conditions can also be certified as 9/11-related by a private physician in certain circumstances, most notably for the following individuals:
- Those filing a deceased claim in which the victim’s conditions were not certified through the WTCHP.
- Foreign residents living outside the U.S. who cannot travel to New York City to obtain WTCHP benefits or certification of conditions.
- Those eligible for compensation for a certified condition and now seeking to add non-certified cancer as a claimed condition.
A certified private physician can, therefore, provide an alternative avenue for those who cannot participate in the WTCHP.
Do you need to be sick to register with the VCF?
Some individuals who register with the VCF are not sick and have not yet been diagnosed with a 9/11-related condition.
These individuals are protecting themselves by ensuring that if they do develop a 9/11-related medical condition, they already have a pathway to free treatment and compensation.
For people who are not sick but were exposed to 9/11 toxic dust, gathering documentation to demonstrate presence in the exposure zone during the designated period is recommended. The following type of documentation can help speed up the VCF registration process:
- Employer records
- Utility bills/rent/mortgage receipts or a sworn statement from a witness
- School or daycare center records
- Volunteer records, medical records, or workers’ compensation records
How do victims register for the VCF?
To register for the VCF, victims will first need to create an account by telephone or fill in a form online.
The helpline number is 1-855-885-1555. The online process can be completed at www.claims.vcf.gov, where there are prompts to complete the following steps:
- Click on Create Account on the welcome screen.
- Create a password, making sure it meets the requirements. Answer the security questions that are asked if a user is ever locked out of an account. Once completed, select Create Account.
- A confirmation will be sent that the account creation has been successful. Click on the link on the confirmation page.
It’s as simple as that to create an account. Bookmark the link and make sure the password is saved somewhere safe. Then sign in by entering a username and password.
To complete the registration process and make a compensation claim, follow these steps after logging in:
- Click on New Registration on the welcome screen.
- Complete the information for each of the following tabs: Victim, Claimant (if someone other than the victim is filing the claim on the victim’s behalf), Attorney (if applicable), Alternate Contact (if applicable). Then click Save.
- Once the requested information has been completed and saved in each tab, click Submit Registration.
- Once all the information is correct, click Finalize and Submit Registration.
- If registration is successfully submitted, a green box will say Registration Submission Successful.
- Log in and submit a claim.
Note that it is not possible to change certain information once submitted. For instance, the victim’s name, Social Security number or date of birth cannot be altered.
There is no obligation to seek legal assistance to register for the VCF. However, anyone having problems with the process may benefit from the help offered by a seasoned New York 9/11 fund lawyer with a good understanding of the claims process.
What happens if you don’t register before the deadline?
For victims certified by the WTC Health Program after July 29, 2019, VCF registration must be completed within two years after the certification date. Alternatively, the deadline is two years from when a local, state, or federal entity notifies the victim that a medical condition is 9/11-related.
Missing this deadline can result in the waiving of the right to claim compensation. However, the claims deadline of October 2090 is unlikely to be an issue for most potential claimants.
Congress must find the funds necessary to pay all awarded claims through that time because it is recognized that many diseases, such as cancer, may have lengthy latency periods with symptoms not yet evident.
If you register, do you have to file a claim?
Registering with the Victim Compensation Fund does not mean that a victim needs to file a claim.
Fortunately, not all those exposed to 9/11 dust will develop health issues related to the exposure. However, registration for the fund ensures that help is at hand if they do.
The lawyers at Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP can assist if you have a health problem related to 9/11. To discuss your situation and learn more about how we may be able to help you, please call 332-239-2238 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.