How Long Does the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Take to Decide a Claim?
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund takes about two years to make an award. The VCF reports that claims submitted before October 2019 are now being decided, claims submitted between October 2019 and December 2019 are being reviewed, and all other claims are in an earlier review status. Once a 9/11 VCF claim is decided, the decision and any award should be reviewed by an experienced 9/11 claim attorney to complete a full legal analysis if the award amount is correct, if the award should be appealed, or if your claim should be amended.
You faced a severe diagnosis related to your contributions or presence at Ground Zero following 9/11. You submitted a claim. You may even have worked with an attorney to ensure that you collected all the necessary information and filled out all your forms correctly and importantly.
Now, you have to wait.
You may have medical bills piling up, especially if you chose to pursue treatment with your own private doctors, laying out payments before you are accepted into the WTC Health Program for treatment for your diagnosis. You may have other bills that you need to take care of or plans for what you will do with the money once you receive it, especially if your diagnosis has forced you to miss time from work.
You know approximately how much you deserve and may have discussed the claim amount with your attorney, so you find yourself eagerly anticipating the moment when you will have those funds in hand.
How long will it take for you to receive information about the decision on your claim? Less time when you hire a law firm that works exclusively with 9/11 claims, knows the process, and can avoid many of the Department of Justice bureaucracy pitfalls that often trap deserving applicants or delay their benefits.
The Claim Review Timeline
The VCF reviews claims in the order it receives them. Over the past several years, the VCF has made steady strides toward shortening the time needed to settle many of those claims.
In general, the VCF tries to review claims and provide compensation for victims within two years of claim submission; however, like any other process, it can face delays along the way. For example, if the VCF receives a sudden influx of claim submissions, it may take longer than usual to process all of those claims than it would to move through the normal claim timeline, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of December 2020, claims submitted from January to June 2019 entered the award decision phase. The VCF continues to seek more ways to improve that timeline and get the funds needed to victims of the 9/11 attacks sooner.
How the Appeal Process Can Impact Claim Approval
You get a decision letter in the mail that indicates that the VCF either approved your claim, but for lower funds than you think that you deserve, or that the VCF denied your claim.
If you intend to appeal, you must file that appeal within 30 days of receiving the VCF’s decision regarding your claim. You can only file a claim if you received an Appeal Request Form in the letter detailing whether the VCF approved or denied your claim. If you did not receive notice that you could appeal your claim, you do not have the right to appeal that claim.
If you do intend to appeal your claim, you will receive no funds from the claim until you have a chance to submit the relevant information from your appeal and have the VCF process your claim. After the appeal, you will need to wait for the VCF to process the changes to your claim, which can extend the time needed to receive your settlement and get a final decision about your claim.
Frequently, claim denial occurs because the victim failed to submit all the information needed to effectively process the claim. This information may include:
Evidence of Your Diagnosis or Diagnoses
To file a claim through the VCF, you will need to show that you suffer from a 9/11-related condition. The WTC Health Program includes a list of approved conditions, including lung ailments and a wide range of cancers. If you received treatment through the WTC Health Program, you may already have all the evidence you need to showcase your diagnosis and how it impacted you. On the other hand, if you sought treatment from another entity, you may need to submit medical records, scans, and tests. In some cases, you may choose to go in for further testing to help show your condition.
Evidence of Living, Working, or Volunteering Near Ground Zero
In some cases, you may have to go digging for evidence that shows your work near Ground Zero following the events of 9/11. You may need to show evidence from your employer, for example, that shows you worked in Lower Manhattan following September of 2001, or that you participated in clean-up efforts or helped transport debris from Ground Zero to Fresh Kills.
You may also need to show evidence that you lived in the area. Rental agreements or property ownership in Lower Manhattan could provide the evidence you need. Make sure you fully incorporate all of this information (plus the required detailed and properly prepared affidavits) in your claim before submission so that it goes through as you want it to the first time.
If you failed to submit the right information the first time, you may want to work with an attorney to ensure that the next time you send in information about your claim, you have adhered to a high level of accuracy, ensuring that your claim will go through properly.
What If I Need a Faster Decision on My Claim?
Sometimes, you do not have time for the VCF to deliberate for months over your claim. Knowing that you may have to often wait for more than a year, to receive the funds you deserve in compensation for your 9/11-related illness can leave you stressed and struggling. In some cases, if you need claim approval sooner, you may take steps to expedite your claim. You can expedite your claim for one of two key reasons.
You have an excessive financial hardship that the funds from the claim can help alleviate.
Financial troubles can hit hard, especially if you cannot work while receiving treatment for a 9/11-related diagnosis. For example, many patients with cancer cannot work while undergoing treatment. Medical bills alone can prove hard enough to manage, especially if you chose to pursue treatment outside the WTC Health Program for your cancer or respiratory-related diagnosis. Worse, you may find yourself with serious bills stacking up that can cause unnecessary hardship in other areas of your life.
According to the VCF, financial hardship that can qualify you for an expedited claim may include:
- Pending eviction. You have rented your home, but you have missed enough payments that the landlord chose to pursue eviction. You may be way behind on your rent payments and have no way to catch them up without VCF claim approval. Not only can eviction prove costly, since you will have to find a way to move all of your possessions to a new place, it can prove incredibly stressful at a time when you may already have significant diagnoses and other problems to deal with. If expediting your claim can help keep you in your home, the VCF may approve you to expedite your claim.
- Pending foreclosure. As with rent payments, you must make payments on your mortgage on time each month or face potential consequences, including foreclosure. The bank that holds your mortgage may threaten to take possession of your home. If you cannot pay off your debt, or at least get current on your payments, within the time frame offered by the bank, the bank will take possession of your home, and you will have to move out. This can leave you with significant overall hardship: as with eviction, you may have to find a new home, move all of your possessions, and deal with the expenses associated with moving. If you do not have the funds to pay for your existing mortgage or your rent, you certainly do not have the funds needed to pay for additional expenses, including a deposit and first month’s rent or a down payment on a new home.
- Utility shutoff. Electricity, water, and gas help keep your home running comfortably. They ensure that your home remains at a comfortable temperature, which can prove particularly critical while you go through treatments for a serious illness. Water in your home makes it possible to cook, clean up, shower, and dispose of waste. As you fall behind on your bills, however, the utility company may cut off service to your home. When the utility company cuts off service, it can quickly make your home impossible to live in. Even if you remain current on your rent or mortgage and other expenses, the lack of utilities can make it necessary for you to move out of your home or significantly undermine your quality of life.
If you need to expedite your VCF claim, contact an attorney to learn more about the steps you need to take to make sure that your claim moves through as quickly as possible. You or your attorney will need to contact the VCF Helpline at 1-855-885-1555 and make sure that you upload all necessary documentation to your claim.
By working with an attorney, you can provide the VCF with all the information needed to process your claim as quickly as possible, or expedite it if necessary, which can prevent you from waiting for months to receive the funds you so desperately need today.
How Can I Check the Status of My Claim?
You can check the status of your claim by visiting the VCF claim page, logging in, and taking a look at your status. What status you see when you view your claim will depend on how much of the claim process you have completed: for example, after you enter your information, but before you submit your claim, your status may read “incomplete.” Once you complete your claim information, your claim will go through several status updates. The VCF notes that you will not always see every status on your claim, and the current state of your claim does not necessarily guarantee when you will receive compensation.
During the preliminary review process, the VCF will look at your claim and ensure that you have submitted the minimum necessary information to start processing your claim. If you have not submitted the right documentation or have not submitted adequate documentation, the VCF can catch it at this stage and send your claim back so that you can fix any problems. This preliminary review process has helped to accelerate processing time.
Under Review can show either while your claim goes through the initial processing phase or when your claim undergoes a look from a Special Reviewer. During this process, a reviewer will go through all the information related to your claim and determine your eligibility for compensation. Once your claim has passed through the Under Review stage for the final time, it will typically move to claim approval or denial. The VCF notes, “Your claim will also briefly return to this status once it moves to ‘Special Master Review’ and a determination has been rendered.
“This occurs while we are entering the Special Master’s determination into the system. When your claim returns to ‘Under Review’ after being in the ‘Special Master Review’ status, the VCF expects the decision to be entered within one week. In general, claims that move back to “Under Review” for more than one week require additional information and the VCF will contact you to explain what is needed.”
If your claim goes back to Under Review for more than a week, plan to consult with an attorney to learn more about your specific needs and how to streamline future information.
Determination Made: Processing
During this stage, the VCF has decided your claim, but needs to complete a final check before entering the amount into the system. It may also appear if you have received award notification, but must send in further documentation before receiving compensation for your claim.
Waiting for the funds from your VCF claim to arrive can make it difficult to handle many of your regular bills. Ensuring that you fill out all requested information properly the first time can help expedite your claim. Contact an experienced 9/11 attorney at Hansen & Rosasco, LLP for more help filling out your claim information or locating necessary evidence to prove your claim.Posted under: Uncategorized