What Happens if I Register With the VCF After July 29, 2021?
July 29, 2021, is a major deadline for obtaining compensation from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). Read on for information about what the deadline means, who it affects, what to do if it affects you, and what happens if you register with VCF after the date passes.
What Is VCF?
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is one of two programs that were created and authorized by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. The programs have been reauthorized twice since they were signed into law, including the recent reauthorization funding the programs through October 1, 2090.
The VCF provides compensation for responders and survivors of the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, PA, as well as workers and volunteers who worked on rescue, recovery, and cleanup efforts in lower Manhattan near Ground Zero and elsewhere between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002.
To obtain compensation from VCF, you must:
- Have a medical condition certified by the WTC Health Program that qualifies you for coverage. To certify the condition, you must apply to the program and submit the required information about the length of time you were exposed to toxins at one of the terrorist attack sites, as well as information about any medical conditions you suffer from that you believe could be caused by your 9/11 exposure.
- Register with the VCF within two years of the date on which your 9/11 related medical condition was certified by the WTC Health Program as eligible for treatment.
- File your claim before October 2090.
How Your Claim Is Reviewed
This process includes:
- A preliminary review to ensure that all of the minimally required documents have been submitted. These documents include an authorization for the release of medical information, confirmation from the WTC Health Program that you have at least one certified 9/11-related medical condition, proof of presence at a 9/11 terrorist attack or clean-up site, and other documents. If you are filing a claim for death benefits as the family member of an individual who has died as a result of a 9/11-related medical condition, you must submit additional documentation including the death certificate.
- If the preliminary review reveals that you are missing some of the required documents, the program will send you a notice of missing information and place your claim in inactive status until the information is received. If the requested documents are not submitted within 60 days of the receipt of the notice of missing information, your claim will be denied. However, you may refile again once you have all of the necessary documents in order. If you have submitted the requested documents, your claim will be placed back in active status and will proceed through the review process.
- As a general rule, claims are evaluated on a first in, first out basis. However, in cases where an individual is in dire need of compensation, the process can be expedited. An experienced 9/11 benefits attorney can tell you if you qualify for an expedited review of a VCF claim.
- The claim undergoes a more substantive review in which the information contained in the documentation is verified and analyzed. This process can take more than a year to complete. The program will contact you if there is a need for additional information during the substantive review process.
The July 29th Registration Deadline
If you were certified by the WTC Health Program for a 9/11-related medical condition before July 29, 2019, then you must file your registration by the July 29, 2021 deadline to reserve your right to file a compensation claim anytime before October 2090. Likewise, if you are planning to file a wrongful death claim through the program to obtain compensation for the loss of your loved one to a 9/11-related medical condition and the death occurred before July 29, 2019, then you also must register with the VCF by July 29, 2021.
Who Is Not Affected by the Deadline
Individuals who had their 9/11-related medical condition certified after July 29, 2019, are not required to meet the July 29, 2021 deadline. However, they are required to register with the VCF within two years of the latest date that the WTC Health Program certified their condition. This is also true for those who have not yet applied for the WTC Program or had their condition certified.
Family members wishing to file a wrongful death claim due to the loss of a loved one to a 9/11-related condition must register with the VCF within two years of the date of death. One major exception: The amendment to the VCF in 2019 created a “second chance” for families who lost loved ones at any time between 9/11/01 and July 29, 2019 extending the deadline to register with the VCF until July 29, 2021. After the July 29, 2021 second chance deadline, the VCF goes back to the original two year registration deadline for deceased claims, so that if a person died of a 9/11 illness any time after July 29, 2019, the family mst register the deceased claim with the VCF within two years from the date of death.
Is This Two-Year Deadline New?
No, the deadline has long been two years after certification of a condition with the WTC Health Program or death of a family member from a 9/11-related condition. However, in many cases, the individual or his or her relatives were not aware of the program or the two-year time limit to file claim. Because of this, the VCF opted to open a small window for these late cases to be filed.
In addition, the deadline this year also applies to filers who:
- Were previously found ineligible for compensation because they had missed the two-year deadline to register.
- Had an appeal pending due to an unfavorable decision on their case that was based on them failing to register within the deadline. These filers’ appeals were likely canceled when the window for late registrations was opened. If you fall into this group and meet all other eligibility requirements, then you can now refile your claim.
- Failed to register with the program because they were told that they were past the deadline to do so.
When You Need to File Your Claim
A major source of confusion for many individuals who suffer from a 9/11-related medical condition is what the registration deadline is and what the deadline to file your claim is. Importantly, they are two distinct deadlines.
The registration deadline reserves your right to file a claim. It does not obligate you to file a claim. It also does not count as a claim. It merely reserves your right. This deadline is two years after the last date on which the WTC Health Program certified your 9/11-related condition, or July 29, 2021, if you fall into one of the categories above.
The deadline to file your claim after you have registered with VCF is October 1, 2090, regardless of when your 9/11-related condition was diagnosed or certified, and regardless of when you registered. What this means is that even if you are not currently sick with a 9/11-related illness, if you become ill in the future, you can apply for the WTC Health Program, have your condition certified, and register with the VCF within two years of the certification.
Importantly, if you receive a certification of a new condition while you have a claim being processed, then you have the option to either amend your claim to include the new condition or file another claim based on the new condition at any time before October 2090.
What are the 9/11-Related Health Conditions That Make Me Eligible for Compensation?
There are dozens of health conditions related to exposure to the toxins (including over 70 different cancers) contained in the World Trade Center debris that make you eligible to receive an award for pain and suffering plus potentially wage loss and expense compensation through VCF.
These conditions include:
- Acute and traumatic injuries, such as burns, complex sprains, eye injuries, fractures, head trauma, and torn tendons.
- Airway and digestive disorders, such as asthma, chronic cough syndrome, chronic rhinosinusitis, interstitial lung disease, and sleep apnea.
- Cancers, including those that involve the blood and lymphoid tissue, breast, digestive system, eye and orbit, ovary, head and neck, prostate, respiratory system, skin, thyroid, urinary system, and mesothelioma.
- Mental health conditions, including acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Musculoskeletal disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and low back pain.
When you apply to the WTC Health Program, you get an initial medical evaluation to determine if you are currently suffering from any medical issues covered by the program. The initial medical exam includes an assessment of toxic exposure at a 9/11 exposure area, medical history, mental health questionnaires, physical examination, a test to check how well you breathe, analysis of your blood pressure and heart rate, blood tests, and a chest X-ray if you are exhibiting signs of a possible 9/11-related condition.
Individuals receive their initial health care evaluation and subsequent monitoring and treatment of qualifying illnesses through one of the program’s affiliated medical centers or network partners across the country. If a program or network doctor finds that the patient, in fact, suffers from a 9/11-related condition, then the doctor can request that the program certify the condition. If the doctor refuses to make this request, then the patient can ask for a secondary medical review to be conducted by a different program designee.
Do I Need to Send My Medical Records when I File My VCF Claim?
The VCF generally does not require you to submit your medical records if you receive monitoring and treatment through the WTC Health Program, provided the Program has certified your health condition. However, circumstances exist in which you may want to submit medical records to support a VCF claim.
In either event, in filing a VCF claim you likely will need to authorize the WTC Health Program to release your medical information to the VCF. The information the VCF typically receives from the WTC Health Program includes the name of the condition that you were diagnosed with; the WTC Health Program’s category for this condition, such as cancer or upper respiratory illnesses, and the medical code related to that diagnosis.
In some circumstances, the VCF may ask to review your medical information to determine if your condition is presumptively severe or significantly impairs your day-to-day life, and thus entitles you to certain benefits. If VCF makes this request, it does not necessarily mean you will have to give VCF access to all of your medical records. Usually, a physician statement that summarizes your condition, the treatment you have been provided for it, and the impact it has had on your quality of life will suffice.
How Attorneys Help Those With 9/11 Health Conditions Obtain Compensation
Applying for monitoring and treatment through the WTC Health Program, and filing a claim for benefits from VCF, should be straightforward, but often it isn’t. 9/11 responders and volunteers who deserve assistance with their medical care and financial compensation for the harm they suffered from 9/11-related toxic exposures sometimes struggle to access the very programs designed to help them.
An experienced 9/11 benefits attorney can help. Over the past nearly-20 years, lawyers have developed valuable skills and knowledge about when and how to obtain 9/11-related benefits, so that anyone who suffered health complications after answering the call to help at Ground Zero and other attack sites gets the benefits they deserve.
One of the most important functions attorneys serve in connection with securing 9/11 benefits is taking care to ensure that their clients meet important deadlines.
The upcoming July 29, 2021 deadline is especially important, because it applies to a variety of VCF claims that might otherwise have already expired, but which individuals can still pursue if they act quickly.
To learn about what you need to do to meet important deadlines for obtaining 9/11-related benefits, and to find out if the July 29, 2021 deadline applies to you, contact a skilled 9/11 compensation attorney as soon as possible.Posted under: The Victims' Compensation Fund