What If My Current Name Is Different from the Documents That Support My VCF Claim?

VCF Rules for Those Suffering From 9/11 Obstructive Sleep Apnea

When claiming with the Victim’s Compensation Fund (VCF), claimants must submit a significant amount of paperwork, including documents that verify identity and support the claim.

Sometimes, irregularities in this paperwork can delay or complicate claims. For instance, a name change could mean that the current name of the claimant is different from that featured on the documents.

The 9/11 attacks, while still fresh in many people’s memories were over two decades ago and life changes for survivors and responders are normal. A lot can happen in 20-plus years, including name changes.

Is this likely to cause problems and, if so, what can claimants do to ease the process of claiming with the VCF?

Possible reasons for name changes

The World Trade Center Health Program is a federally funded, nationwide program designed to provide medical monitoring and treatment for those who suffered either physical or mental health conditions as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

It is open to emergency responders, recovery and cleanup workers, and volunteers who were in the New York City disaster area during and immediately following the 9/11 attacks, as well as at the Pentagon and the crash site near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The program is also available for residents, students, and workers who were exposed to the toxic dust in the exposure zone in downtown Manhattan in the months after the attacks.

The program is administered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Eligible individuals can register with the WTCHP even if no adverse symptoms or health issues are apparent. They will then have the necessary registration and documentation to receive medical care and claim compensation (from the VCF) if they develop a health condition in the future.

WTC Health Program clinic locations are dotted throughout the NYC Tri-State area and around the country, making it convenient for individuals to get the diagnoses and care they need.

What conditions are covered by the 9/11 WTC Health Program?

People change their names for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, it is due to one of the following:

VCF claimants include residents, workers, and people who attended school in the exposure zone in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

It is highly likely that many female students who have since registered with the VCF or made a claim have married since 2001, meaning that their surnames may have changed. Some male spouses even change their names to match their wives’ names.

High school documents will include the maiden name while the claimant’s name with the VCF is their married name, which is a potential complication on the paperwork.

Some VCF claimants will undoubtedly have divorced in the intervening years since September 2001. Many spouses revert to their maiden names to make a fresh start after divorce, again causing the names on documents to be different when it comes to VCF claims.

Some children lost their parents during the attacks or may have been adopted after 2001 for other reasons. This would also result in a name change compared to the name listed on school documents.

Some of those present in the exposure zone in the days, weeks, and months after the attacks may have simply changed their names for personal reasons.

The previous name may have been embarrassing, difficult to pronounce, symbolic of “starting a new life” or the name change may have been for religious reasons.

How to file a VCF claim if the name change occurred before the claim

For claimants who changed their names years ago or at any point before they made a claim with the VCF, it is relatively simple to ensure that the claims process goes smoothly.

The basic requirement is to prove the change of name in the supporting documentation submitted with the claim.

Claimants must:

  1. Complete a VCF claim form (with or without the assistance of a 9/11 lawyer).
  2. Collect supporting documents to prove their presence in the exposure zone between 11th Sep 2001 and 30th May 2002. These documents should show both names, the old name or the new name, such as wage slips/employment records, school transcripts, rent records, mortgage or homeownership records or volunteer records.
  3. Submit official documentation that proves the name change. The documentation must show the previous name and the current name and may include a marriage certificate, official name change paperwork, adoption papers or divorce decree.

It is also usually best to include a cover letter or affidavit about the name change, indicating why the additional paperwork is necessary and relevant to your claim.

What to do if the name change occurred after filing a 9/11 VCF claim

If somebody changes their name after the claim has been submitted to the Victim’s Compensation Fund and a decision about an award has not yet been made, the name change itself will not affect the entitlement to an award.

The VCF process can take many months but claimants should take extra steps to inform the relevant parties and ensure that the new name appears on the VCF award documentation:

  1. Collect supporting documents to prove the name change, showing the previous name and the current name, such as a marriage certificate, official name change paperwork, adoption papers or divorce decree.
  2. Write a cover letter or affidavit to explain why the extra documents are necessary after the VCF claim paperwork has already been submitted and the request for the new name to appear on all communications concerning the VCF claim.
  3. Complete the Claim Information Resolution Form. This authorizes the VCF to make changes involving the claim (e.g., a name change or change of attorney).
  4. Submit the new documentation and await a decision from the VCF.

Should claimants change names while pursuing a VCF claim—or wait?

If a 9/11 survivor or responder is about to get married, divorced or otherwise wants to change their name and needs to make a VCF claim, the two events should not greatly impact each other. The VCF is aware that many people experience life-changing events that result in name changes.

Potential claimants can go ahead and change their names as long as, when the VCF claim paperwork is submitted, it is complete with paperwork that proves the name change.

The process is made especially seamless with the help of a 9/11 lawyer to handle communications with the VCF, as many claimants find.

How can a Victim Compensation Fund lawyer help?

VCF lawyers represent many claimants who discover health problems related to 9/11—in many cases, years after the attacks took place.

9/11 attorneys can manage the registration and claims processes both with the WTC Health Program (which offers free monitoring and treatment for 9/11-related conditions) and the Victim’s Compensation Fund.

As well as the practical assistance provided by the collection, completion, authorization, and submitting of paperwork, an attorney can provide added peace of mind that nothing important has been missed and the claim has been maximized.

Name changes may add some complexity to the claim, especially if documents have been lost—an attorney can help resolve complications like this. Attorneys can also follow up, prevent delays, and may be able to expedite claims in exceptional circumstances.

To discuss your situation and learn more about how we may be able to help you, please call Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP at 212-983-3000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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