The new Zadroga Act 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund officially opened for business today for “registration” only. However, no one can file a claim for compensation yet because the actual “Compensation Claim” forms will not be ready until the end of November at the earliest.

In a surprise move, VCF Special Master Sheila Birnbaum has established a three step “phased in” application process starting today. The 3 steps are as follows:

  1. Attorneys (or claimants without representation) can immediately “register” for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund here.  This registration process includes basic claimant information (including if they are represented by an attorney), the status of the claimant and information regarding “presence at the crash site”;
  2. A new 9/11 VCF “Eligibility Form” will be released to the public on or about 10/28/2011. This eligibility form will ask questions about the nature of your injuries, why you were at the WTC site, whether you participated in the WTC Health Program and whether you participated in any prior 9/11 related lawsuits;
  3. On or about November 28, 2011, the Special Master will finally release the actual “Compensation Claim Form”, which will ask questions on medical expenses, out-of-pocket costs, loss of earnings, loss of replacement services (did you need to hire a cleaner or a landscaper?), burial expenses when applicable and possible collateral source offsets that may decrease your award.

Eligible claimants will be able to see a new “9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Document Checklist” so they or their representatives can start assembling all necessary documents to perfect the claim.  Finally, the Department of Justice and Special Master Birnbaum have launched a new Zadroga 9/11 VCF Website  for the future dissemination of information.

This is the beginning of the process for our clients and and many others. I was asked in a television interview today how long the process would take from application to receipt of at least partial compensation awards? This will be affected by the number of applicants and the amount of Justice Department staff dedicated to the Fund. That being said, I predict that once an application  is deemed “substantially complete” by the Special Master, an initial decision on compensation should take between 3-6 months.

We will all need patience as we carefully navigate the procedures of the new fund. However, Ms. Birnbaum has made a good start with the “open and transparent” process she has promised from the beginning.