It is not uncommon for 9/11 compensation claimants to learn new information or obtain additional documentation about their health condition after they file their initial claim with the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). Sadly, it is also not uncommon for 9/11 compensation claims to be denied or an award issued for a substantially smaller amount than it should be. Fortunately, VCF rules allow for claims to be amended and for adverse decisions to be appealed. But 9/11 claim amendments and appeals can be complicated. Having World Trade Center lawyers on your side who understand how to properly amend or appeal your claim can make the difference between receiving substantial 9/11 compensation and receiving nothing.
What is the Difference Between an Amendment and an Appeal?
The difference between a VCF claim amendment and a claim appeal is pretty simple:
- If you are seeking a new claim determination based on new information not submitted with your initial application, you should amend your claim
- If you are challenging the VCF’s determination on your claim, you should file an appeal.
Consider these examples from the VCF that illustrate the difference between the two:
- If you believe that the earnings basis that the VCF used to calculate lost earnings was too low and you do not appeal, you will have waived that argument on any appeal of a subsequent amendment. In that case, you are challenging the determination already made and you should
- On the other hand, if you believe that the percentage of disability attributable to your eligible conditions that the VCF used was too low and you have previously unsubmitted information that you believe supports a higher percentage, you will not compromise your claim to that higher percentage if you accept payment on the determination already made while submitting proof relating to a request for a higher percentage as an amendment. In that case, you are accepting the determination already made, and seeking a new determination based on new information. As such, you should amend.
Should I Amend or Appeal the VCF’s Disability Findings If I Disagree With Them?
How you challenge a disappointing disability finding depends on the basis of your challenge:
- If you have new information regarding your disability that you haven’t provided to the VCF, you should amend your claim.
- If you have no additional information but are asserting that the VCF did not properly calculate your award based on your level of disability, you should appeal the decision.
The VCF can only consider eligible conditions when determining your level of disability. For example, if you have been found 100% disabled by another government entity for two conditions, but only one of those conditions is eligible for VCF compensation, then the VCF can only consider the one condition and its associated disability when calculating your loss.
Can I amend my application if I was certified for a new condition by the WTC Health Program after my award was issued?
You can amend your claim to add a new condition at any time prior to December 18, 2020, even if you were already issued an award for another condition. If the VCF finds you eligible for compensation for the new condition and you are seeking additional loss related to the condition, you must also file a compensation amendment.
You Need to Appeal Fast, But an Appeal Will Slow Down Any Payments
If you want to appeal a VCF decision on your claim, you need to act quickly. Your determination letter will also contain an appeal form. That appeal form must be filed within 30 days of the decision letter. If you fail to file an appeal within the required 30-day period, you will waive your right to appeal that determination and the VCF will begin processing any applicable payment on your claim.
It is important to understand that if you file a compensation appeal, you will not be paid until the appeal is resolved. If you appeal a finding that you were not eligible for 9/11 compensation, the VCF will not begin its review of your claim until after a decision is made on your appeal. The only circumstance in which your claim will be paid while your appeal is pending is if you been approved for expedited status.
If you need assistance amending or appealing your VCF compensation claim, the experienced and committed 9/11 attorneys at Turley, Hansen & Rosasco can help. Please call us today at 1-855-WTC-INFO (1-855-982-4636) or fill out our contact form to arrange for your free 9/11 claim evaluation. We look forward to assisting you.