VCF Update: October 6, 2011 Update – Claim Forms and Registration

Dear World Trade Center Victim Compensation Fund Client:

As many of you are already aware, the final Victim Compensation Fund Regulations have issued and the Fund became effective on October 3, 2011. However, the actual Claim form to participate in the Fund is not yet available. The Claim Form will have two parts: Eligibility and Compensation. The Eligibility section will not be available from the federal government until approximately the end of October, 2011. The Compensation section will not be available until approximately the end of November, 2011. We will be able to file both for you at the same time.

The Fund has provided for a Registration process in advance of filing the Claim form, however registering does not officially constitute the filing of a Claim. Certain questions in the Registration form are relevant to an ultimate determination of eligibility for the Fund and must be carefully answered. As your attorney, we are already in the process of registering all of our clients. You should not also register.

In our continued representation of your interests, we will review the Claim forms and any additional requirements as they become available. We are continuously monitoring the requirements of the Fund and remain current as soon as information becomes available. Additionally, we believe we have been instrumental in effecting some beneficial changes in policy in the manner in which the Fund will operate.

We continue to have communication with Sheila Birnbaum, the Special Master appointed by the Department of Justice to supervise the Fund. We have provided Ms. Birnbaum with significant information that we have gathered over the last ten years in representing seriously injured people as a result of the events of September 11, 2001. Our partners are privileged to serve as one of the Plaintiffs Liaison Counsel appointed by the Court in the underlying Federal Litigation.

As the Claim forms become available and we analyze the requisite supporting documentation on your behalf, we will contact you concerning these matters to discuss all aspects of the claim on your behalf. If you are in New York, we anticipate an in-depth meeting in our office so that the Claim we submit is complete with all of the requisite supporting information. The requirements are significant.

Below you will find some useful information explaining how the Fund will operate and the basis of initial eligibility.

When must I apply: In order to be timely, a Claim form must be submitted within two years of October 3, 2011 for any eligible injuries known about as of that date. For eligible injuries that have not yet developed, a Claim must be filed within two years of becoming ill. For injuries not yet eligible but which become eligible later, a Claim must be filed within two years of when the injury becomes added to the eligibility list. However, in no instance may any Claim be filed after five years from October 3, 2011.

Where were you exposed to toxins or other injury: In general, for those individuals exposed in New York, the Fund requires that you were south of Canal Street or along a route of debris removal.

When were you exposed to toxins or other injury: In general, individuals had to have been within the location described above some time during September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002. We will have to submit proof of your presence.

What types of injuries may be compensable: the Fund has provided a list of presumed injuries. If you have a diagnosis that falls within this list and if your treatment was at a World Trade Center Health Plan facility and if the doctors at such facility certify your injury for treatment, then that injury will be considered for compensation. If your treatment was elsewhere, the medical providers will have to provide appropriate records, reports or affidavits for your injuries to be considered by the Fund and they will have to confirm the causal relationship of your injuries. We continue to urge our clients to enroll in one of the World Trade Center Health Plans.

Here is the current list of “presumed injuries” provided by the Victim Compensation Fund. Other injuries may be considered:

“Aerodigestive Disorders

  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Chronic Respiratory Disorder – fumes / vapors
  • Asthma
  • Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS)
  • WTC-exacerbated Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Chronic cough syndrome
  • Upper airway hyper reactivity
  • Chronic rhino sinusitis
  • Chronic nasopharyngitis
  • Chronic laryngitis
  • Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD)
  • Sleep apnea exacerbated by or related to the above conditions.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

  • Low back pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
  • Certain other musculoskeletal disorders defined as “a chronic or recurrent disorder of the musculoskeletal system caused by heavy lifting or repetitive strain on the joints or musculoskeletal system occurring during rescue or recovery efforts in the New York City disaster area in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”

Claimants who have a traumatic physical injury or a presumptively covered health condition or disease (and representatives of individuals who have died as a result of such a traumatic injury or presumptively covered health condition or disease) that was caused as a result of September 11th and who are otherwise eligible may receive compensation from the VCF for economic and non-economic loss as defined in the regulations.”

As you can see, currently there are no cancers on this list. Many of our clients have expressed their concerns that cancer is not included. We continue to fight for your rights so that all related injuries are covered. Unfortunately the Victim Compensation Fund does not presently believe there is sufficient scientific evidence linking any cancer to the World Trade Center exposures.

Medical research and scientific studies continue to be published on this topic and the Special Master supervising the Fund has indicated she will continue to review the medical literature as it is published and reserves the right to add injuries to the eligible injury list at a later date. For those clients who have other eligible injuries and a cancer, we can file a claim currently and supplement later should cancer be added by the Fund. This same process applies to other injuries not currently eligible.

Additionally, if a client is suffering only from a psychological disorder, i.e. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and there is no eligible physical injury, there will not be an award of compensation from the Fund. If, however, you have a psychological injury in addition to an eligible physical injury, the Fund may consider those elements when it assigns a value to your claim.

Should you have further questions, as always, we are available to speak or meet with you.

Robert Grochow

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Robert Grochow has over 30 years of experience as a personal injury lawyer in New York, serving as co-counsel in over a thousand cases. He has also received recognition as one of New York’s “Most Honest Lawyers” from the National Law Journal/Washington Post.

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