Filing a Claim
Filing a successful VCF claim depends on eligibility, complete documentation, & critical deadlines. Discover the six steps in the review process, and how a skilled 9/11 attorney can help.
Understanding the VCF claim system: Registration, review process & claim status
As a result of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, thousands of responders and survivors continue to suffer from severe and fatal health conditions, over two decades after the incidents.
If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer or any disease as a result of the deadly attack, you may be eligible for tax-free compensation from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was created by Congress to ensure that every victim of the 9/11 attack received compensation.
Since the VCF was established, Cannata, Hendele & Cannata has helped more than 1,000 responders and survivors recover over $300 million worth of VCF compensation.
Our compassionate lawyers are always on standby, ready to help assess and file your claim, or appeal a decision when necessary.
Call 888-982-8428 today or contact us online to discuss the VCF claims system, your eligibility, or VCF claim status with an experienced VCF lawyer today.
Who can file a claim with the VCF?
Apart from members of the fire department (NYFD), the police (NYPD, and the first responders, you may be eligible to file a claim with the VCF if you:
- Were a cleanup volunteer or helped with debris removal
- Survived the attack but suffered physical injuries as a result
- Suffer from a certified 9/11-related illness
- Have a family member that was involved in the attack
- You were a visitor to the area where the attack happened
- Are a team member of WTC-area businesses
- Are a team member of the transit, sanitation, and utility department.
To confirm your eligibility, you must provide proof of the presence of either the survivor or the deceased victim in the NYC Exposure Zone between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002.
You must also prove that you suffered from damage caused by the 9/11 terrorist attack. Your injury or medical condition must be covered under the 2010 Zadroga Act.
Understanding the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund claim review process
After registering for the World Trade Center Health Program, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund claim process is broken down into two phases: (1) eligibility review and (2) compensation review.
While there are some exceptions, most 9/11 claims will follow the six steps outlined below.
To begin: Register & submit your complete VCF claim
To begin the VCF claim process your Claim Form must be submitted either online or in hard copy, complete with Eligibility and Compensation information and all required supporting documentation.
Upon delivery, you will receive a letter confirming that the fund has received your claim form, and the Fund will begin reviewing your eligibility status.
Step 1: Preliminary claim review
Once your claim form has been received the Victim Compensation Fund will conduct a preliminary review. During this phase, the fund will:
- Confirm receipt of all required documents, including: applicable Exhibits, Signature Page, presence documents, and documents required for Personal/AuthorizedRepresentatives (if applicable).
- Confirm the have received a complete Exhibit A –“Authorization for Release of Medical Records” by mail with original signatures.
- Contact the WTC Health Program for information about your certified condition(s).
- If applicable, they will also request information from certain government entities, employers, and other third parties.
If your claim is missing the minimum documents required to process the claim, it will be marked as “Inactive” while the VCF awaits proper, and full documents.
If you don't provide updated documentation and respond within 60 days, your claim may be denied.
You can amend your claim once you have the necessary documents.
What's my VCF claim status? During this step, your online claim status will appear as “Submitted” or “Submitted: Pending Preliminary Review”
Step 2: Substantive eligibility review
Once your claim is under the substantive review process, the fund may request additional information.
Once they receive all documents required for processing they will conduct a review to determine your eligibility for compensation, including:
- Verifying the claim was registered by the applicable deadline.
- Confirming you are an eligible 9/11-related physical condition.
- Verifying your presence in the Exposure Zone (or applicable location)
- Confirming timely resolution of any 9/11-related lawsuits.
- If applicable, they will also validate the Personal or Authorized Representative at this time.
- If your claim is missing any needed documentation, they will issue a “Missing Information” letter. If you don’t respond to a missing information request after 30 days, the VCF will render a decision based on the information contained in your file at that time.
What's my VCF claim status? During this step, your online claim status will appear as “Under Review”
Step 3: Render eligibility decision
Once the preliminary and substantive eligibility reviews have been completed the 9/11 VCF will determine if your claim is "Approved" or "Denied." Once a decision has been made, the VCF will send a letter explaining the outcome of their review.
- If your eligibility is approved, your claim will move to the next step, Compensation Review.
- If eligibility is denied, the review of your claim stops at this step. Your eligibility decision letter explains how to appeal the decision and how to amend your claim in the future when you are able to provide additional information for consideration.
What's my VCF claim status? During this step, your online claim status will appear as ether “Approved” or “Denied”
Step 4: Initial compensation review
Once your eligibility is approved, the VCF begins an initial review of your compensation information.
This includes determining the types of loss being claimed.
- Non-economic loss only: If you are claiming only non-economic loss, your claim moves to next step.
- Economic loss: If you are claiming economic loss, the fund will contact third parties such as the SSA, FDNY, & NYPD to gather more information regarding pensions, disability, and/or earnings history.
- Missing documentation: If the claim is missing any needed documentation, you will receive a “Missing Information” letter and you will have 30 days to respond before a decision is rendered based on the your claim at that time.
What's my VCF claim status? During this step, your online claim status will appear as ether “Submitted: Pending Preliminary Review” or“Preliminary Review” or“Ready for Reviewer: Pending Review” or “Under Review”
Step 5: Complete compensation review & calculate award
The Victim Compensation Fund calculates each award individually. Complex claims will take more time to review. The compensation review includes:
- Non-economic loss: A calculation of non-economic loss, often called “pain and suffering,” based on the severity of the physical harm.
- Economic loss: A calculation of economic loss, including past and future lost earnings, if claimed.
- Collateral offsets: Confirming collateral offsets include payments received from pension funds, life insurance, SSA, workers’ comp, and settlements from other 9/11-related lawsuits.
- Incomplete documentation: If your claim is missing any documents necessary to calculate economic loss (or if documents aren't submitted in a "timely manner") the VCF may issue an award for non-economic loss only.
What's my VCF claim status? During this step, your online claim status will appear as ether “Under Review” or “Special MasterReview”
Step 6: Award decision & payment
Once a VCF payout has been calculated, the fund will send a letter explaining the breakdown of your award. At this time, you can either accept their award decision or appeal if you believe an error was made.
- Appealing a payout calculation: If you believe an error was made during the calculation, you must appeal the decision within 30 days. Payment will be issued once a decision has been made following your appeal.
- Accepting a payout calculation: If you agree with their calculation, the VCF will issue an authorized payment within 50 days (20 days from the end of the 30-day appeal period).
Once your payment is authorized it may take up to 3 weeks for the U.S. Treasury to disburse payout into your bank account. (The account your money will be deposited into will be what was designated on the payment authorization form submitted to the VCF).
Once the U.S. Treasury confirms the payment has been made, the VCF will send a letter confirming the status of your payment.
What's my VCF claim status? During this step, your online claim status will appear as ether “Determination Made: Processing” or “Comp. Determination Sent”
How a skilled 9/11 attorney can help you navigate the VCF claims system
Filing a VCF claim requires numerous steps, bureaucratic red tape, and critical deadlines, including proving and submitting a claim with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). Hundreds of people hire 9/11 attorneys to manage their VCF claims each year and ensure they receive maximum health and financial benefits.
Federal laws governing the Fund don't require you to hire a lawyer to claim compensation through the Victim Compensation Fund or for medical treatment under the WTC Health Program; however, having the assistance of an experienced 9/11 attorney makes navigating this complicated process much easier.
A skilled 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund lawyer at our firm can help you:
- Understand and evaluate your VCF eligibility and/or claim status
- Register you with the VCF to preserve your future rights (even if you are not sick at this time)
- Gather and submit the required documentation, medical records, and proof or presence
- Calculate your economic, non-economic loss, and collateral offsets
- Apply for certification from the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP)
- File your 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund claim (and/or appeal, if needed)
- Maximize your VCF compensation award
Hiring the right 9/11 attorney can help simplify the VCF claim process
Whether you are filing a case for yourself or a loved one that lost a life because of the 9-11 attack, the procedure can be draining, time-consuming, and confusing.
Fortunately, our lawyers are here to help you navigate the claims process, claim forms, and secure your rightful compensation.
The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund lawyers at Cannata, Hendele & Cannata have recovered more than $300 Million in VCF payouts for the 9/11 community.
For over 20 years, our law firm has been at the forefront of WTC VCF litigation, successfully advocating for more than 1,500 first responders, lower Manhattan residents and workers, police officers, students, and survivors.
We take pride in doing the heavy lifting for our clients and holding their hand through the claim process because they’ve already been through a traumatic medical ordeal and we don’t want them to have to endure a bureaucratic one.
Our team of experienced 9/11 attorneys will help you:
1. Get enrolled in the WTC Health Program (WTCHP)
Once our attorneys have evaluated your eligibility for the WTC Health Program and VCF, we will help you enroll as either a Responder or Survivor to receive your free initial health evaluation.
Common questions we often get about enrollment in the WTC Health Program include:
- What happens during my initial health evaluation?
Your initial health evaluation may include any, or all, of the following evaluations to determine your eligibility: 9/11 exposure assessment; Medical history and mental health questionnaires; Physical examination; Functional breathing test; Blood tests, Urinanalysis, and similar services.
- How long will it take to process my WTC Health Program (WTCHP) application?
If you have included all the required information on your application and sent all the necessary supporting documentation with it, it will generally take a few weeks to review and process. Every application is different, however, and some reviews may take longer.
If your application is missing information, your application review will be delayed or suspended. If that happens, a WTC Health Program enrollment specialist will contact you by phone, email, or mail to help you complete your application.
- What happens if my WTCHP application is denied?
If your enrollment is denied, the Program will send a letter explaining why it has been denied. If your application was denied due to enrollment, certification (including denial of certification of a health condition as a WTC-related health condition, denial of certification of a health condition as a medically associated health condition, or decertification of a WTC-related health condition) or treatment (including denial of treatment authorization for a certified health condition based on a finding that the treatment is not medically necessary) we will help you appeal this decision.
- How long do I have to file an appeal?
The program requires an appeal to be filed to the Program’s appeals coordinator within 120 calendar days from the date of your denial, disenrollment, or decertification.
2. Provide evidence of your proof of presence in the Exposure Zone
To register for the WTCHP and gain eligibility into the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, your attorney must be able to provide proof that you were present in the 9/11 Exposure Zone and provide evidence of your participation in an acceptable activity, at a covered location, during specific time periods, that meets the “minimum number of hours” requirements.
Led by two experienced VCF lawyers with support from a dedicated team of paralegals, Cannata, Hendele & Cannata will work expeditiously to collect any documentation that can satisfy the VCF's proof of presence requirements for your specific claim.
Unlike many other law firms that only submit proof of presence documents, we take the time to personalize each claim, making it as compelling as possible which often elevates its importance to the Victim Compensation Fund.
In addition to proof of presence documentation, our WTC VCF lawyers prepare an attorney memorandum that summarizes your illness, its impact on your health and your family, and a narrative statement from yourself.
3. Submit complete proper & full documentation
Proving non-economic loss can be tricky, mainly because it has everything to do with emotion. For instance, if you lost parental guidance when your loved one passed away, it can be difficult to prove that you were deprived of this fundamental right on your own.
Our lawyers have handled plenty of VCF cases, so they know how to prove such things as economic losses, and avoid delays due to incomplete or inadequate documentation.
The amount of compensation you get depends on how well you argue your case and present your evidence. A lawyer can help you with documentation of both economic and non-economic losses, and also critical paperwork to expedite your claim, including:
- Authorization for Release of Medical Records allowing the VCF to go directly to the WTC Health Program for information about your certified condition(s).
- Signature Page allowing the VCF to get information from other third-parties (employer, union, workers' comp board) to gather support of your claim.
- Documentation required for widows: If you are filing claim on behalf of a deceased spouse, we will ensure all documentation is submitted as noted in the VCF's Deceased Claim checklist.
4. Appeal a denial (if applicable)
If your application has been denied because your proof of presence is not acceptable or does not satisfy the requirements, both the WTC Health Program and the VCF provide the opportunity to submit additional documents and testimony.
Our 9/11 attorneys can help you understand what’s missing or why your proof of presence may have been denied and will help you prepare any additional documentation the Program needs to make the most compelling argument for your eligibility.
Denials from the Victim Compensation Fund must follow an official appeals process, including the opportunity to schedule an in-person hearing. Our attorneys will help you understand this process and ensure you are prepared.
How long does it take to settle a VCF claim?
If you submit all the needed documents, your VCF claim process can take up to four weeks before compensation is awarded. However, the time taken varies depending on how VCF interprets your claim and if you have any appeals.
In some cases, the VCF might contact you asking for additional information after your initial claim filing has been completed.
How do I check my VCF claim status?
The VCF reviews claims on a "first-in, first-out" basis — meaning it prioritizes claims that came in first and have been waiting for review for extended periods. After making your claim, you can visit the official VCF website portal to find out the status of your claim.
When reviewing your claim and VCF requires additional information, they will contact you to provide the same. Our 9/11 lawyers can walk with you through all these steps, help you with any other information that VCF may require as well as help you check the status of your claim.
Speak with a 9/11 attorney about your VCF claim today
The VCF was put in place by Congress to compensate those affected, either directly or indirectly, by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
However, the process of applying for a VCF claim is not easy, given that you have to provide a lot of documents to prove that you or your loved ones were around the exposure zone when the events occurred.
For an ordinary citizen, this whole process can be time-consuming, confusing, and stressful.
The 9/11 lawyers at Cannata, Hendele & Cannata are compassionate and determined to see every victim secure maximum VCF compensation.
Our VCF lawyers will analyze your case and eligibility, help you through the documentation and certification process, and help you prove damages for both economic and non-economic losses.
With decades of experience and helping over 1,000 members of the 9/11 community, we understand the deadlines involved and what it takes to file a VCF claim successfully.
Call 888-982-8428 today or contact us online to speak with a 9/11 attorney about your claim and next steps.