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When Can I Expedite or Accelerate My 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Award Payout?

By Troy Rosasco

From start to finish, it can take anywhere from 18-30 months to process the typical 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) Claim. But what if you can’t wait 18 – 30 months to get your compensation award? Depending on the severity of your medical condition and/or financial hardship, we may be able to expedite your 9/11 award payout in three to four weeks.

There are two specific instances when a claimant can have their 9/11 award review process expedited or accelerated:

  1. Terminal Illness – if you (or a loved one) has a “terminal illness” likely to result in death in the near future, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund will consider our request to expedite your claim. The Fund usually will let us know within 48 hours if they will expedite your request. This means you will jump the line in the normal claims processing and maybe get your compensation payout sooner.  If your claim is “fully submitted”  and the Victim Compensation Fund grants our request to expedite your claim, you may receive your award money in as little as three – four weeks. Examples of “terminal illnesses” often include “9/11 related Stage 4 terminal cancers”, or other end stage respiratory illnesses.
  2. Significant Financial Hardship – The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund considers “significant financial hardship” as an imminent or pending foreclosure or eviction proceeding, a  utility (water, electricity, gas, etc.) cut off, or other similar circumstances, as demonstrated by appropriate documentation.

It is our job at Hansen & Rosasco to quickly assemble all the documents needed to expedite your claim and submit them to the VCF as soon as possible. The 9/11 lawyers and staff at Hansen & Rosasco, LLP  make moving “expedited” claims forward an absolute priority.  We will do everything in our power to see that our clients in dire circumstances receive the compensation they deserve as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, sometimes, you need the funds from that claim fast. If you choose to pursue medical treatment on your own, rather than going through the WTC Health Program, you may have medical bills that you need to take care of as soon as possible. You may also have noticed a severe drop in your income while dealing with your illness. Many people, including those with substantial cancer diagnoses, may not have the ability to work through treatment for serious illnesses. Now, you have bills that you need to pay, potentially including bills with serious deadlines. Your credit may already have faced a serious impact.

Is there any way to accelerate the review of your VCF claim?

Talk to an experienced 9/11 attorney at Hansen & Rosasco to learn more about how to file a VCF claim, what it entails, and how to streamline that process as much as possible. Often, by working with an experienced attorney, you can help ensure that you get all of your paperwork filled out correctly and provide all the evidence needed to process your claim, which can make it easier for you to get the funds you need.

The VCF does offer several circumstances under which you can accelerate your claim review.

1. Having a Terminal Diagnosis

With the funds from your VCF payout, you may intend to set your affairs, make provision for your heirs, or take care of current debts. You might even have immediate plans for those funds: traveling, visiting loved ones you may not have seen recently, or simply buying necessities you may not have chosen to purchase previously. You might even buy items that will make your final days more comfortable: durable medical equipment, for example, which can help make you more independent and ease your pain as you deal with a terminal illness.

To claim a terminal diagnosis, you will need to show:

Evidence of a WTC Health Program-Covered Diagnosis

The WTC Health Program has a specific set of conditions that it covers. The extensive list includes numerous types of cancer as well as severe breathing, skin, and digestive system disorders.

In many cases, failure to diagnose cancer can cause severe complications that can result in a terminal diagnosis once your cancer does come to light. Unfortunately, many types of cancer, including liver cancer and reproductive system cancers, may not show symptoms immediately. You may not notice symptoms until your cancer has progressed substantially. As a result, you may have greater odds of facing a terminal diagnosis.

Evidence You Have Pursued Treatment

Some cancers will prove terminal if you do not undergo treatment. In the case of some conditions, including prostate cancer, you may choose not to immediately pursue treatment—since prostate cancer tends to develop slowly and you may not need treatment for a long time, if at all. Other types of cancer, however, respond well to aggressive treatment strategies. Pursuing that treatment can prevent you from dying from that condition.

Some people may choose not to pursue cancer treatments. They may not want to go through the aggressive treatments and discomfort associated with some cancer treatment. However, if you have the option to pursue treatment, you may not yet face a terminal diagnosis—but you may not have the ability to accelerate your claim the way you would like.

Evidence of a Terminal Diagnosis

Despite the high-quality cancer treatments currently available on the market, some people cannot receive the treatment they need to make a full recovery. Your doctor may advise you that, past a certain point, your cancer will likely end in death. At that point, any treatments you pursue may have the goal of reducing pain and discomfort as much as possible, rather than expecting to extend your lifespan through those treatments.

Your doctor will need to document that terminal diagnosis and the anticipated time you have left to provide the proof you need to accelerate your VCF claim.

2. Facing Substantial Financial Hardship

Following a serious diagnosis related to your involvement at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11, you may suffer severe financial hardship. Many people cannot work with a serious diagnosis. Cancer treatments, for example, can sap your energy and leave you unable to manage your daily job duties. Many treatments can prevent you from going to work. Some victims may lose their jobs and any associated health insurance coverage altogether.

These struggles can quickly leave you fighting to get your bills paid on time. Medical bills not covered through the WTC Health Program may go into collections. You may also face substantial, immediate financial hardship including:

Imminent or Pending Foreclosure

As your income dropped, you missed payments on your home. You could no longer keep up with your mortgage. Maybe it started with just missing a couple of payments. You may have assumed that you could catch up on them once your income improved or your circumstances changed. Unfortunately, those missing payments piled up fast. Now, the bank has chosen to foreclose on your home. You may have only a short time to make up those missing payments or lose your home at a time when you have already suffered more than enough.

With imminent or pending foreclosure on your home, you can move to accelerate the review of your VCF claim, moving it through faster and increasing the odds that you can pay off those bills.

Pending Eviction

Like a mortgage, your rent represents a substantial expense. You do not want to have to move, especially while undergoing cancer treatments or dealing with a disability. Unfortunately, you missed some of your rent payments. Your landlord likely has a clear policy for how long you can go without paying your rent before starting eviction proceedings. Perhaps the landlord has even allowed some leniency because of your diagnosis or your volunteer contributions at Ground Zero.

Unfortunately, landlords rarely allow people to continue to live in a property for free. Once you have missed several rent payments, your landlord may begin eviction proceedings. You may not want to move, especially if you still have to deal with cancer treatments or other challenges. But you may have few options to make those payments.

Expediting your VCF claim, on the other hand, can provide you with the funds you need to pay off your back rent and remain in your residence. Often, if you let your landlord know about your circumstances and come up with a plan to pay the rent, your landlord may allow you to sign a new contract and remain on the property, even if eviction proceedings have already begun. Your VCF lawyer might help you with this.

Utility Cutoff

Losing utilities can pose problems, especially in extreme weather. Losing your air conditioner or heater can threaten your health and life. Losing your ability to charge your devices can leave you cut off from the world. Lack of water and electricity can make your house uninhabitable, especially if you still share your home with minor children. Unfortunately, utility costs can add up quickly, especially if you do not have the income to pay those bills. You may need to calculate payments for gas, electricity, or water.

If you have ended up in danger of having your utilities cut off, you could accelerate the review of your VCF claim to put the money to pay those bills in your hands faster. Often, you can negotiate with the utility companies, letting them know that you need to make a partial payment to keep the lights on and the water running. Sometimes, if you let them know that you just need to wait on a VCF payment to come through, especially if you have already received a letter letting you know about your award amount, you can convince them to wait a little longer before they cut off your utilities. Your VCF lawyer may help you do this.

To prove pending utility cut off, you may need to submit those final notices or show clear evidence that you have fallen well behind on your bills.

Additional Financial Hardship

You do not need to face eviction or utility cut off to accelerate your VCF claim, but you will need to show considerable financial hardship: your inability to maintain a reasonable quality of life. This does not include luxuries, but may include falling behind on your regular payments. Contact your 9/11 attorney to learn more about what financial hardship may qualify and how to prove it to qualify to expedite the review of your claim.

What Should You Do to Expedite Your Claim?

Hansen & Rosasco - Victim Compensation FundDo you believe that you have grounds for an expedited claim? If so, you should follow the right steps.

1. Contact an Attorney

Most commonly, VCF claims get denied because the victim did not fill out the paperwork correctly. You may have missing or inaccurate information, which could cause your claim to end up denied.

If you need to expedite your claim, you need to make sure that you can move the process through as quickly as possible. That means filling out the paperwork properly so that you do not face the need to appeal your claim, which could slow down the process and prevent you from getting the money you need.

2. Call the Helpline.

Call the VCF Helpline or  Have Hansen & Rosascohave your attorney call in the Hotline for you. Notify the VCF about your financial hardship or terminal diagnosis and your intent to expedite your claim, if possible.

3. Upload the Necessary Documentation

When you submit your VCF claim, you will submit all supporting documentation through the VCF. This includes documentation that shows when you worked at Ground Zero, what duties you completed during that time, and evidence of your diagnosis or diagnoses. You may also need to submit documentation about your medical bills, if you chose not to pursue treatment through the WTC Health Program.

If you plan to expedite your claim, you will need to show evidence of the reason for expediting. You will either need evidence of a terminal diagnosis or evidence that shows why you feel your financial hardship requires expediting the claim.

4. Wait for an Answer

Within 48 hours, the VCF will let you know if you can expedite your claim. If you can expedite your Hansen & Rosasco - 9/11 lawyersclaim, you have filled out the forms correctly and submitted all necessary documentation, which means you just need to wait on the VCF to move forward with your claim. Once the VCF issues your award letter, you will also receive payment.

Do You Need a 9/11 Attorney?

If you need to file an expedited claim through the VCF, having an attorney on your side could be critical to putting it all together quickly and ensuring that you do not miss any details. Contact an experienced 9/11 attorney like Hansen & Rosasco as soon as possible to learn moreto get the 9/11 award results you deserve.

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