Anyone who worked as a first responder in the NYC Exposure Zone between September 11th, 2001 and May 30th, 2002, who is suffering from a 9/11-related health condition, may be eligible for compensation. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) and the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) were formed to provide medical treatment (WTCHP) and financial assistance (VCF) to 9/11 first responders and survivors suffering from health conditions related to their presence at these sites.
The application process for these programs can be lengthy and complicated. At Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP we are committed to assisting 9/11 first responders in navigating the complexities of these systems and recovering the compensation they deserve. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation with one of our experienced 9/11 VCF attorneys.
VCF Compensation and WTCHP Medical Care Available to NYC First Responders
The VCF and WTCHP are two distinct but related government programs designed to address the 9/11 community’s unique needs for medical care and continued financial support. Although access to certain parts of one program may depend on steps taken in the other, they are separate entities with distinct deadlines and requirements.
What is the VCF?
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to compensate survivors who suffered physical harm. Victims include individuals who were present during the attacks themselves and those who were present at the site in the weeks and months that followed. To qualify for compensation from the VCF, an applicant must have been present in the Exposure Zone for a sufficient time during the qualifying timeframe and have been diagnosed with a WTCHP-certified illness.
What is the WTCHP?
The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) is a federal health program that provides medical monitoring and treatment to those suffering from 9/11-related health conditions. Members must receive treatment for their certified or associated health conditions from WTC Health Program-affiliated providers. WTCHP membership includes first responders and other survivors, although the eligibility criteria and available facilities differ between the two groups.
WTC First Responders Eligible For VCF & WTCHP Benefits
First responders who are eligible for VCF and WTCHP benefits include:
- Active or retired FDNY responders—Firefighters, EMTs, and other emergency personnel assisting in the rescue and recovery effort;
- WTC General responders—Rescue, recovery, clean up, or otherwise related support workers/volunteers, members of the NYC Police Department or Port Authority Police of New York and New Jersey (active or retired), Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation Tunnel workers, and NYC Chief Medical Examiner’s Office employees and morgue workers; and
- Pentagon/Shanksville Responders—Fire or emergency personnel, and rescue, recovery, clean-up, demolition, or otherwise related support workers/volunteers, at the Pentagon or Shanksville crash sites.
NYC Firefighters, Police Officers, and EMTs With 9/11 Related Illnesses Can Receive Compensation & Care
The VCF provides compensation for 9/11-related health conditions certified by the WTCHP. Illnesses covered by the WTCHP include:
- Cancers of the blood, breast, digestive system (rectum and colon), eye, ovary, head and neck, prostate, Mesothelioma, respiratory system (bronchus and lung), skin, connective and soft tissue, thyroid, urinary system (bladder and kidney), and other rare cancers (68 in total);
- Acute traumatic injuries, such as burns, eye injuries, complex strains, fractures, head traumas, and tendon tears;
- Aerodigestive disorders, including asthma, chronic laryngitis, chronic respiratory disorder, chronic rhinosinusitis, chronic nasopharyngitis, chronic cough syndrome, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), interstitial lung disease, upper airways hyperreactivity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (RADS); and
- Mental health conditions, such as acute stress disorder, anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, panic disorders, adjustment disorders, substance use disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The above list is not exhaustive. Here is the complete list of WTCHP-certified health conditions and injuries. In addition, the WTCHP covers medically-associated conditions: disorders that result from treatment of a 9/11-related health condition or the progression of such a condition. Individuals suffering from a 9/11-related illness or injury should speak with a VCF lawyer to determine eligibility.
Heroes Present In The Toxic Exposure Zone
To qualify for compensation from the VCF and medical treatment from the WTCHP, first responders must have been present in the NYC Toxic Exposure Zone for a certain amount of time. Each program defines these time limits and the geographical reach of the Exposure Zone differently.
The VCF defines the NYC Toxic Exposure Zone as all of lower Manhattan south of 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.
The Zone also includes debris removal routes, including the Fresh Kills landfill and barges used to transport rubble.
The WTCHP employs different minimum time limits of exposure for each covered group. Additionally, these time limits depend on the location in which a first responder worked. For example, FDNY first responders must have been present for at least four hours at Ground Zero, Staten Island Landfill, or the NYC Chief Medical Examiner’s Office, on qualifying dates, to be eligible for WTCHP membership.
First responders must also provide Proof of Presence documentation to qualify for assistance from the VCF and WTCHP. Supporting documentation can include the type of work performed, the address or street name of the workstation, and the time period and hours per day worked in each location. A Witness Affidavit, which certifies that a third party saw the claimant working in the Exposure Zone, strengthens many VCF registrants’ applications.
How To Apply For VCF Compensation or WTCHP Medical Care
The application processes for the VCF and WTCHP are often complex and interrelated; however, the general steps are as follows:
- Register with the VCF by the Registration Deadline. Each applicant’s registration deadline will depend on their circumstances.
- Apply for certification by the WTCHP for a 9/11-related health condition.
- File a claim with the VCF.
All claims registered with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund by July 29th, 2021 are considered timely, regardless of the date of diagnosis. Those who do not register by July 29th, 2021 may still register, so long as it is within two years from the date that they knew the condition was 9/11-related. That begins on the date of the victim’s World Trade Center Health Program certification, or when any other federal or state entity informed them that the condition is 9/11-related.
Certification deadlines for the WTCHP vary depending on the medical condition, as each condition has specific requirements that a patient must meet before receiving coverage.
Work With a 9/11 Attorney To Help With The Application Process
Applying for the VCF and the WTCHP is a complex, extremely personalized, and lengthy process, but victims needn’t undertake it alone. A skilled 9/11 attorney can help first responders understand their unique case, ascertain the documentation required for VCF registration and WTCHP certification, and submit medically supported optional impact statements to ensure their access to the maximum compensation available. Call Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP at 212-983-3000 for a free and confidential consultation today.