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I Amended My September 11 Compensation Claim for an Additional Payout due to a new 9/11 medical condition. When Will a Decision Be Made?

By Troy Rosasco

As of August 2021, the best estimate of time it takes for a new amended Victim Compensation Fund award decision is generally 12 -18 months. However, it can be shorter or longer depending on individual case circumstances. When your doctor or the WTC Health Program discovers a new 9/11-related medical condition, you must first get the new condition “certified” by the World Trade Center Health Program. That can take between one to two months at a minimum. Then Hansen & Rosasco can help move the process along to obtain additional compensation from the VCF. This starts the 12-18 month clock.

You may need to amend a VCF claim for many reasons. But the next question claimants face is: How long will it take for the VCF to approve my amendment?

Here is some information about the VCF amendment process and the timetable for consideration of changes to your claim. To learn more or obtain answers to the questions you have about your VCF claim, an experienced 9/11 benefits attorney at Hansen & Rosasco can help.

The Reason VCF Claimants File Amendments

An individual would want to amend their VCF personal injury claim for several reasons:

  • The WTC Health Program has certified a new medical condition, that was not certified when you filed your initial claim, that may entitle you to additional money from the Fund.
  • The injury or condition for which you obtained certification and filed a claim has substantially worsened, resulting in new, uncompensated economic losses.
  • The VCF denied your claim or classified it as inactive because you failed to respond to a request for missing information, and you are now ready to file the missing documents.
  • You need to add, change, or remove a personal representative or parent/guardian on an existing claim.
  • You have new information in support of your claim that will likely affect the amount of your loss.
  • You have received an initial award determination on your claim and now seek reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical expenses that you incurred before the date of WTC Health Program certification of the treated condition, and these expenses are more than $5,000.
  • You previously submitted a claim for economic losses and now want to withdraw those losses from consideration for compensation.
  • You responded to a missing information request from the VCF, but the VCF did not consider the information you submitted before determining your award.

Generally, the VCF does not accept amendments for deceased claims. However, there are three exceptions, including:

  • You previously claimed wrongful death losses that the VCF decided not to fund due to a lack of documentation to prove those losses, and now you have the information necessary for those losses to be reconsidered.
  • You need to add, change, or remove a personal representative from your claim.
  • The Special Master determines that not permitting the amendment would result in a substantial injustice.

Changes That Don’t Require an Amendment

You can make several changes without an amendment.

Those changes include:

  • Changing your bank account or address information. Downloading, completing, and submitting a new Payment Information Form can change your bank account information. Calling the VCF helpline and requesting assistance in updating your records can change your address.
  • You wish to add, change, or remove an attorney from your claim. Downloading, completing, and submitting the Change of Attorney Form can do this. Once the VCF has received this form, your claim will be updated, including changing who can access your claim information online.
  • You obtained a decision from the VCF about the claim that you wish to appeal. Never use the amendment process to address appeals. The VCF has the discretion to determine whether it should address an issue with your claim through an amendment or appeal.
  • You got married and need to change your name on your VCF records. If your name on your claim form and the online claim is correct, but the documentation you need to prove your presence or medical condition is different, you should upload a letter explaining the different name. If your name has changed since you registered or filed your claim with the VCF, you should complete a Claim Information Resolution Form noting the name change and upload it to your claim along with proof of the name change. In either of these circumstances, acceptable proof of a name change includes a court order, marriage certificate, divorce decree, or other legal documents that show or order that your name has changed. You can simply upload these documents to your claim—there is no need to provide original hard copies of these documents to the VCF.

Changes Where an Amendment Will Likely Not Affect Your Award

In certain circumstances, the claimant must consider whether filing an amendment will impact the amount they receive.

Those circumstances include:

  • Seeking an amendment to obtain additional non-economic (pain and suffering) losses if you have already received the maximum amount of compensation. Remember: The VCF caps awards for non-economic damages at $90,000 for non-cancer conditions and $250,000 for an individual cancer condition. (However, it is possible to obtain additional non-economic pain & suffering damages for two or more individual cancers. For example, if you have both lung cancer and prostate cancer, you may be entitled to $300,000 in non-economic damages). Once you have obtained that amount of compensation for the pain and suffering associated with your illness, you are not permitted to seek additional non-economic losses.
  • Amendments on claims with large collateral offsets. If you obtained 9/11-related illness benefits from another organization or a 9/11 lawsuit, your award will offset that initial amount of compensation you received. If you claim new losses, unless they are more than the amount offset from your award, your compensation will not change by filing an amendment to claim the new losses.

How the VCF Prioritizes Claims

Normally, the VCF reviews claims on a first-in, first-out basis. However, if there are significant hardships that warrant reviewing a particular claim or an amendment quickly, the VCF can expedite the process.

The conditions that will result in an expedited review of your claim include:

  • Cases involving terminal illness within 12 months.
  • Cases involving a significant financial hardship, such as imminent or pending foreclosure, eviction proceedings, or utilities being cut off.

Hansen & Rosasco can assist you with filing the appropriate documentation necessary to justify prioritizing your claim.

The VCF will review all other claims as received through a process that includes:

  • A preliminary review to ensure that you submitted all necessary documentation to prove eligibility criteria, including a certified 9/11-related illness and proof of presence at one of the terrorist attack sites during the eligible time.
  • A substantive review, which involves VCF administrators reviewing the documents that you submitted and obtaining more information from you or your doctors that will assist them in reaching a decision.
  • Notification of your VCF award decision or a decision regarding submission of an amendment.

The review process of filing a claim with the VCF is currently taking about a year from the date on which the initial claim or the amendment was submitted.

How the VCF Prioritizes Amendments to Claims

According to the VCF, priority is given to claims for individuals who have not yet received an award. Because of this, if you submitted your amendment after you have already received payment on your claim, you can expect that your claim will carry a lower priority than new claims do.

Priority is determined based on the date of the submission of the amendment for those submitting amendments after payment was made on the claim. However, if you are amending a claim for which there has not yet been a funding decision made, the submission of your amendment will not change your priority status.

Why Can’t Deceased Claims Normally Be Amended?

Except in limited circumstances, you cannot amend a deceased claim. This is because if the individual for whom the VCF provided compensation is deceased, then no other changes can occur with his or her eligible 9/11-related conditions that would result in an additional award or a recalculation of the compensation the claimant deserves.

This is why it is crucial for those who submit a new deceased claim to ensure that they have submitted all losses and have submitted all supporting documentation for those losses before the claim reaches the substantive review process. As mentioned, in some cases it is necessary to submit additional information or amend the claim, but reviewing additional information after a decision was made on a deceased claim is entirely at the discretion of the VCF.

About the VCF

In the early days after the terrorist attacks, the federal government created the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to help those whom the attacks or the subsequent rescue, recovery, and clean up efforts at the attack sites in New York City, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA, harmed. The original VCF closed in 2004.

As the latency periods of various cancers and other illnesses resulting from the toxic dust plumes at the attack sites expired many years later, it became apparent that the need to provide federal assistance to responders and survivors was still high. In 2011, then-President Barack Obama signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

This act not only reauthorized funding for the VCF with new eligibility criteria and expanded eligible conditions, but created the WTC Health Program, which provides medical treatment and monitoring for 9/11-associated illnesses. The WTC Health Program also certifies eligible 9/11-related conditions and this certification process determines eligibility for VCF compensation in most cases.

In 2015, the federal government once more reauthorized the fund and began addressing issues that affected the amount of funding available, including capping non-economic (pain and suffering awards) and removing the minimum amount of compensation that victims could claim. However, the funding insufficiency continued.

In 2019, then-President Donald Trump permanently authorized the funding of the programs through the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act so that individuals could seek compensation for their 9/11-related illnesses any time before October 2090.

Need to Amend Your VCF Claim? An Attorney Can Help

9/11 Victim Compensation Fund lawyers such as Hansen & Rosasco have helped thousands of responders and survivors of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to obtain the compensation they need to help with the expenses and impacts of their 9/11-associated illness for many years now.

While they often help clients right from the start of filing their VCF claims, they also are available to individuals who have already begun the process but have gotten caught up somewhere in the middle of it. In addition to assisting clients with submitting amendments to their claims, they also can assist with other parts of the process, such as appealing an eligibility determination made by the VCF or filing other changes to your claim that do not require an amendment.

Call Hansen & Rosasco Today at 1- 855-353-4907 for a Free Consultation to see if you qualify for 9/11 compensation.

Posted under: 9/11 Victim Compensation

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