According to a report in the Downtown Express on 8/15/2012, 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Special Master Sheila Birnbaum has suspended all financial awards from the Fund until Dr. John Howard and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) finalize the recent proposed rule adding close to 50 different cancers to the list of medical conditions covered under the Zadroga Act.
This means that those who have been found eligible for the Fund, but have only covered respiratory or digestive conditions, will have to wait longer for any award if their application was already submitted.
The Special Master was quoted in the Downtown Express as follows:
“Our timetable has been put off — we’re waiting to see what the final rule is going to be on cancer,”said Birnbaum. “As soon as we find that out, I think we’re going to be in a position to start trying to make some payments, because then we’ll know what the estimates will be.”
However, Birnbaum stressed that her hands are tied with respect to the total sum available to claimants. “We only have the amount of money Congress provided to us,” she said. “The only way there’d be a change, I assume, would be a legislative change.”
Bottom Line – currently, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) only has $2.775 billion dollars to split between all eligible victims. Until the various cancers were recently proposed to be included in the list of covered conditions, the Fund (given its limited pot of money) could potentially have made larger awards to victims with solely respiratory or digestive conditions.
However, if up to 50 cancers are added to the list of eligible conditions, it is likely that awards to the cancer victims will take up a large part of the overall Zadroga pie, making awards to non-cancer conditions potentially smaller.
Of course, all of this depends on various contingencies including the number of overall applicants, the extent of their ilnesses and perhaps most importantly, whether Congress authorizes additional money toward the Fund.
Ms. Birnbaum correctly suspended awards from the Fund temporarily until the addition of any cancers is finalized. If awards need to be proportionately reduced due to the limited Zadroga pot of money, she needs to first be certain whether the proposed cancers are eventually covered under the law. This process could take take several months.
The good news is that the Fund and our law firm are as busy as ever processing applications for our clients. The only thing that is on hold is the final award monetary determination. “Eligibility Applications” and determinations are being processed daily. New rules regarding the evidence necessary to establish “proof of presence” at the “crash site” just came out earlier this week making it easier for certain workers to prove eligibility. The hard work continues!