This post will discuss, “How to Prove You Were in Lower Manhattan on or After 9/11.” Individuals who lived worked, or attended school in Lower Manhattan or assisted in the Ground Zero rescue, recovery, and cleanup efforts as first responders or volunteers, exposed themselves to toxic dust from the collapsed World Trade Center towers. More than twenty years since the attack, many of those individuals are sick with illnesses due to that toxic exposure.
Those who suffered from an illness known or believed to be caused by their exposure to the toxic World Trade Center dust can seek compensation for their injuries through a federal program known as the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). To submit a successful claim, they must prove that they were present in the New York City exposure zone during or following the 9/11 attacks.
What Is the Exposure Zone?
The New York City exposure zone includes the area of Manhattan that runs south of Canal Street from the Hudson River to the intersection of East Broadway, north on East Broadway to Clinton Street, and east on Clinton Street to the East River. The exposure zone also includes any area related to or along the routes of debris removal.
How Long Must Claimants Be Exposed at the Site?
To seek compensation through the VCF, the claimant must prove they were at one of the sites between September 11, 2001, through May 30, 2002. As more people’s conditions are certified by the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP), claimants must meet specific exposure time intervals for different covered groups—first responders, volunteers, and survivors—per that program’s requirements.
Are the VCF and WTCHP the Same Program?
No. The VCF and WTCHP are two distinct programs offering benefits for those rendered ill from 9/11 toxic exposure.
- The WTCHP provides medical treatment and monitoring services. The program also certifies covered conditions caused by toxic 9/11 exposure.
- The VCF provides compensation for the economic and psychological effects of the individual’s illness. This program also compensates those who lost a loved one from a 9/11-related medical condition.
What Conditions Does the VCF Cover?
The VCF compensates for physical health conditions certified by the WTCHP as 9/11-related. Covered conditions include:
- Airway and digestive disorders, such as asthma, chronic cough syndrome, chronic nasopharyngitis, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and more.
- Cancers such as breast, blood, and lymphoid tissue, childhood cancers, digestive system cancers including those involving the colon or rectum, eye, and orbit, ovary, head and neck, prostate, mesothelioma, respiratory system cancers including those involving the lung and bronchus, skin, soft and connective tissue, thyroid, and urinary system including kidney and bladder.
Individuals diagnosed with cancer can seek up to $250,000 in pain and suffering damages for the diagnosis, and those with non-cancerous conditions can seek up to $90,000. Individuals with more than one 9/11-related diagnosis can obtain additional compensation for each certified condition.
Registering and Filing a VCF Claim
Those present in the exposure area during high exposure on and shortly after the terror attacks can register to file a VCF claim even if they aren’t diagnosed with a covered condition. Registration is not the same as filing a claim but reserves the right of the claimant to file a claim at any time until the program closes in 2090.
If an individual is diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness, they must reserve their right to file a claim by registering for the program within two years of being diagnosed with a covered condition. Claimants can have their conditions certified through the WTCHP, or—if living abroad or unable to travel to New York to obtain a screening from one of the program’s Clinical Centers of Excellence—the VCF can approve the condition through the private physician process.
When individuals are ready to file their claim to seek compensation, they must provide documentation to support their claim, including documents that prove their presence in a 9/11 exposure area.
What Documents Can Prove Presence?
If a claimant was an active member of FDNY on 9/11, they do not need to provide documentation to prove their presence, as the VCF administrators can verify that information directly from the department. Additionally, those who obtained compensation through a VCF award during the original program term from 2001 to 2004 do not need to submit proof of presence documents.
For others, the documents that will prove their presence in the affected period include:
- Employer records confirming that the claimant worked in the area on 9/11 or in the months that followed. Examples include a letter from the employer, an official personnel roster, worker injury reports that document an injury incurred at the worksite, or pay stubs with the company’s address listed as appearing in the exposure area.
- Proof of residence in the affected area during high exposure, such as rent or mortgage documents, utility bills, or a witness statement testifying that you were a resident in the exposure area between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002.
- Extemporaneous records that show presence in the area, such as orders, medical records, or school or daycare records from an address in the affected area.
- Volunteer records from organizations that were working in the area.
What if You Can’t Find Documents to Prove Your Presence at the Site?
It isn’t always easy to find documentation from twenty years ago.
Below are some suggestions for obtaining the necessary documents to prove your presence in Lower Manhattan or the other 9/11 attack sites:
- Contact your employer. By 2001, many employers stored personnel records digitally, meaning that you can likely obtain a copy. Additionally, because many of the employers in Lower Manhattan had multiple employees exposed to the toxins, they’ve likely located these documents for others in recent years, as participation in the 9/11 benefits programs has increased.
- Contact the school or daycare you attended. Like the businesses in the impacted area, many schools have already responded to former students filing a VCF claim for 9/11-related conditions. Additionally, public schools generally retain records of attendees many years after the students leave.
- Contact your landlord, who may have a record of the period in which you rented a home or apartment in the area.
- Check your records. Often, bills and other correspondence with an address linger in your personal belongings. Be sure to search your belongings for old documentation.
Other Documentation Needed to File Your Claim
While proof of presence documentation allows the VCF to evaluate your eligibility for compensation, you will also need additional documentation to file your claim.
Other required documents include:
- Documents that show a loss of past earnings because you neither worked nor were paid for work due to your illness. Such documents include a letter from your employer, copies of pay stubs that show a reduction in work hours, or a year-end pay summary.
- Documents to show a future loss of earnings, such as a physician’s statement about your disabilities and medical records that corroborate that statement.
- Documentation showing that you lost your health care, such as documentation about the health care plan offered by your employer, including documents that list the value of that plan.
- Documentation showing pension loss, including a letter from your employer explaining pension calculations and the monthly and annual pension amount received.
- Documents showing collateral payments, such as copies of pending or approved applications with a state worker’s compensation program or the Social Security Administration.
- If the victim or beneficiary participated in 9/11-related lawsuits, they must show documentation dismissing or withdrawing the lawsuit from legal action on or before January 2, 2012. If the lawsuit settles with some or all parties, you must provide information regarding the settlement amount and the release of the lawsuit.
- Documents to show non-economic losses—negative effects to the victim’s quality of life from their 9/11-related illness. This evidence can include an impact statement from a family member, employer, or physician and medical records showing the severity of the condition(s) suffered. These documents are optional but useful for program administrators when considering your claim.
- If you file a deceased claim, you must document the deceased’s proof of presence; provide an original certified copy of a court order or letters of administration designating you as a personal representative for the deceased’s beneficiaries; a copy of the deceased’s will (if available); and an original certified copy of the deceased’s death certificate listing a 9/11-related illness as the cause of death, a significant contributing factor to death, or an underlying factor of death. You must also complete the private physician section of the claim form and submit documentation proving the presence of a 9/11-related condition, when it became known, and when a medical practitioner first treated it. If the WTCHP certified the deceased’s condition, you don’t need to complete this step.
What if the VCF Asks Me to Produce More Documentation?
When an individual submits a VCF claim, the claim undergoes an initial review process in which administrators check to ensure that all required documentation is present. If you missed the required information, the VCF will notify you by mail and place your claim in inactive status until you provide all the required documentation.
If the claimant does not respond to the VCF’s request for more information within 60 days, the VCF may deny their claim. If the VCF denies the claim, the claimant can amend it once they have the required documents and resubmit it for review.
How a September 11 Benefits Lawyer Can Help You Locate the Documents You Need for Your Claim
Attorneys assisting those who need assistance from the 9/11 benefits program understand the documentation needed to prove their presence and the know-how to find these documents. For example, the legal team at Hansen & Rosasco, LLP, includes a decorated retired detective who works with claimants to locate any missing documentation.
Additionally, our attorneys can perform public records searches to find property records or contact companies—such as those who provided utilities in the area in 2001—who may also provide documentation of your presence.
We Can Help
The 9/11 compensation lawyers at Hansen & Rosasco have a long proven track record of assisting 9/11 victims obtain the proper proof of presence to support their VCF claim. We have staff that helps conduct investigations (including a decorated retired detective) who will help you find the proof that is needed for the approval of claims with the WTC Health Program and VCF.
Do you need assistance gathering the required documents for your VCF claim? If so, let our legal team help. Contact us online for your free case evaluation by calling (855) 353-4907.