The Justice Department today issued 47 pages of new regulations implementing the James Zadroga 9/11 Victim Compensation Reauthorization Act.
We have already posted the important changes in the actual 9/11 WTC Zadroga Reauthorization Law in a previous post here. The new regulations are just as important.
The new Zadroga regulations puts the “meat on the bones” of the new 9/11 Zadroga Reauthorization law and tell claimants and their lawyers how to file claims and what to expect in terms of financial awards in the future.
After a preliminary analysis, we believe the most important things claimants and their lawyers need to know about the new regulations are:
- the Special Master shall identify claims that present the “most debilitating physical conditions” and prioritize payments to such claimants. This means that a claimant with terminal 9/11 related lung cancer should get priority placement for payment of compensation over a claimant with a surgically removed skin cancer that is presently considered cured. This is one of the most important changes for 9/11 victims who are seriously ill;
- time limits for filing claims is extended from October 3, 2016 to December 18,2020;
- the regulations clarify that the $250,000.00 cap for non-economic damages in cancer cases is for a single cancer. This means that if a claimant has more than one distinct 9/11 covered cancer, the award could pierce the $250,000.00 cap. For example, if a claimant is awarded $250,000.00 in non-economic damages for kidney cancer in 2016, and then develops unrelated 9/11 thyroid cancer in 2017, the claim can be “amended” for additional non-economic compensation;
- the definition of a “spouse” in 9/11 related death claims has been expanded to include “same sex spouses” who were lawfully married to the victim under applicable state law;
- economic loss shall include awards for out-of-pocket burial expenses on a case-by-case basis;
- future awards for loss of earnings shall not include any amount for “future medical expenses” (presumably since most such expenses should be covered through the free care available from the World Trade Center Health Program – WTCHP);
- determination of collateral offsets (amounts of compensation paid to a claimants from other different sources that will reduce the final net payment to the claimant from the VCF) are further clarified;
- the VCF will implement the new statutory requirement of capping annual gross income at $200,000.00 for purposes of calculating future economic losses. This means that a claimant who previously made $250,000.00 annually prior to becoming disabled will now have his or her award based upon the $200,000.00 gross income cap, rather than their actual earnings;
- the prior minimum award of $10,000.00 has been eliminated, meaning that even if a claimant has a covered 9/11 medical condition, they may receive zero dollars from the 9/11 WTC Victim Compensation Fund (VCF);
The new final 9/11 Victim Compensation Claim form is still not available, but a sample form should be posted shortly. We will bring this form to your attention on this website as soon as it becomes available. There are many more issues to be discussed about the new regulations and we will continue to bring you our analysis here.
There is a 30 day public comment period on this James Zadroga Act rule starting June 15, 2016. Click here if you wish to submit comments.
If you have any questions about the new Zadroga Act regulations or 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund claims, call us at 1-855-WTC-INFO to speak with one of our attorneys.