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victim compensation fund eligibility

9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Eligibility

By Hansen & Rosasco

What is the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund?

Congress originally established the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund in 2001 to bring quick financial relief to those the terror attacks hurt. The original 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) closed in 2004, but Congress reopened the program with new eligibility guidelines through the 2011 James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

Congress reauthorized the act in 2015 then made it permanent in 2019, allowing claimants until 2090 to seek compensation through the program.

Who Is Eligible to Seek Compensation Through the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund?

Those with a medical condition caused by the 9/11 attacks or subsequent rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations as a first responder, general responder, or a survivor (this group includes those living, working, or attending school or daycare in the New York City exposure zone) can seek compensation from the fund. Additionally, the surviving family members of someone who died from a 9/11-related health condition can also file a claim.

#1. Presence in an Exposure Area

The first criteria you must prove to have a successful claim is that you were in one of the exposure areas for a minimum time on the day of the attack or the months that followed.

The time of exposure varies for the different eligible groups.

  • The New York City Disaster Zone includes Lower Manhattan south of Canal Street, East Broadway, or Clinton Street, as well as the places where workers commonly handled 9/11 debris, such as the city’s Medical Examiner’s offices, the routes where trucks took debris to barges to go to the Fresh Kills landfill, the landfill and barges, and the locations where workers cleaned and serviced the trucks.
  • The Shanksville and Pentagon exposure sites are significantly more limited than the New York exposure zone, generally involving only the immediate vicinity around the site and largely impacting responders and rescue, recovery, and cleanup workers.

#2. A 9/11-Related Medical Condition

In addition to proving your presence at a 9/11-exposure area during critical exposure times, you must also prove that you have a 9/11-related illness. The administrators of the VCF generally require the claimant to have their conditions certified through the other Zadroga Act-created federal program, the World Trade Center Health Program.

The WTC Health Program provides health care treatment and monitoring to eligible individuals, including certification of medical conditions that exposure to 9/11 toxins caused.

There are currently dozens of medical conditions, including numerous cancers, that the WTC Health Program certifies as 9/11-related.

Those conditions fall into these general condition groups:

  • Acute and traumatic injuries, including burns, broken bones, or head injuries.
  • Airway and digestive disorders, such as asthma, chronic cough syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), or new-onset or 9/11-exacerbated chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Cancers, such as those involving the blood and lymphoid tissues, breast, digestive system, ovary, prostate, respiratory system, skin, thyroid, and urinary system.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (WTC responders only), such as carpal tunnel syndrome or lower back pain.

While the WTC Health Program also certifies mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression related to 9/11, the VCF does not pay for mental health disorders, only those affecting the claimant’s physical health.

#3. Proof of Death Due to a 9/11-Related Medical Condition

Family members seeking wrongful death compensation after their loved one died of a 9/11-related medical condition must show the deceased’s death certificate, which lists an approved condition as either the immediate cause of death, an underlying cause of death, or a significant contributing factor to the death.

If the 9/11-related condition does not appear on the death certificate as a cause or contributing factor, then the claimant must present medical evidence to help the VCF program administrators determine that 9/11 was a factor.

For example, if the official cause of death was pneumonia and the deceased had a certified 9/11-related condition that affected the respiratory system, the VCF will consider the connection between the 9/11 condition and the death.

#4. No Participation in Active 9/11 Lawsuits

Generally, VCF claimants are not permitted to be involved in active 9/11-related lawsuits, such as civil actions seeking compensation for the medical conditions incurred because of their presence at a 9/11 terror attack site. Both personal injury claimants and wrongful death claimants waive their rights to participate in such lawsuits as a condition of obtaining compensation through the VCF.

However, some 9/11-related lawsuits are exceptions to the rule.

These include:

  • Civil actions to recover collateral source obligations, such as pension funds, life insurance proceeds, death benefit programs, and settlement payments from past 9/11-related lawsuits.
  • Civil actions against knowing participants in the plot to hijack U.S. planes or commit any terrorist act. The exception of this claim enables participants to join a lawsuit under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), with the understanding that any compensation received as a result of such a lawsuit will be treated as an offset and deducted from the claimant’s award.

#5. The Deadlines for Registering and Filing Your 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Claim

Finally, successful VCF claimants are those who meet the deadlines for registering and filing a claim through the program. It is important to note that the registration and filing deadlines are two separate dates.

Registering to file a claim with the VCF is simply a matter of reserving your right to a claim in the future. To register with the VCF, you do not need to have had a diagnosis of a 9/11-related illness. However, if you have obtained a diagnosis of a condition certified by the WTC Health Program, you must register within two years of the last date listed on the certification. If you have a diagnosis by your own physician or essentially any doctor outside of the WTC Health Program, then, in almost all cases, you still have time to register your VCF claim even if you were diagnosed more than two years earlier.

Wrongful death claimants must register with the VCF within two years of the death of their loved one as a result of a 9/11-related illness that was certified by the doctors at the WTC Health Program. Again, if your deceased loved one was not treated at the WTC Health Program, you most likely still have time to file a claim even if the diagnosis date and date of death is more than two years ago. We are often able to file deceased compensation claims with the VCF many years after the date of death, even for deaths that occured as long ago as 2002.

Once you register with the VCF, you have until 2090 to file your claim.

How An Attorney Can Help You With Your VCF Claim

In October 2011, the legal team at Hansen & Rosasco took its first pro bono client: a mother who had lost her 22-year-old son in the terror attack as he was working on the 107th floor of the North Tower when it fell. Since then, these 9/11 benefits attorneys have helped over 5,000 victims of the terror attacks to obtain over a half-billion dollars in federal compensation through the VCF.

An attorney can apply for you, guide your claims for both the VCF and the WTC Health Program, and determine if you can receive additional benefits through other programs, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Posted under: 9/11 Cancers, 9/11 Victim Compensation, The Victims' Compensation Fund, World Trade Center Health Program

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