Victim Compensation Fund Claim Review Process

Robert A. Grochow
December 3, 2019

September 11, 2001, was the deadliest terrorist attack in world history, not just that of the United States. While thousands of people were killed in the World Trade Center or its vicinity because of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11,  the consequences of that horrific day in Manhattan continue to result in death and disability.

Among those affected by the immediate aftermath of that terrible day are the first responders, those involved in debris removal efforts and other clean-up activities, area residents, or people injured while running from the Twin Towers. Those victims of physical injury with an eligible condition may receive a financial award through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.  

Congress originally created the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF),  better known as the WTC or World Trade Center Victim Fund, in 2003. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was signed into law in 2010. While the funding has run out of money in the past and reauthorization took place, funding was extended in July 2019 until 2090. 

Gregory Cannata & Associates are widely regarded as the premier law firm in New York City, representing claimants in the World Trade Center litigation and the federal Victim Compensation Fund, also known as the Zadroga Fund. We can help you through this complicated process.

VCF Claim Eligibility 

Eligible individuals must prove they were south of Canal Street for a period of time between 9-11-01 and 5-30-02. They did not have to have been there on 9/11 per se. There are some location exceptions, such as:

  • The city morgue where bodies were brought
  • The Staten Island Landfills where the toxic debris was sent
  • Barges along the rivers where similar debris was brought
  • Clean up locations where fire trucks were cleaned off 

How much time or presence permits eligibility is based upon a complex chart from the WTC Health Program. However, the closer someone was to 9-11-01, and the closer their involvement, such as onsite cleanup workers,  the fewer hours needed.

A person must have a 9/11-related illness listed as a potentially certified illness by the Victim Compensation Fund and certified by the WTC Health Program.  Eligible physical conditions include 75 types of cancer, respiratory illnesses, sleep apnea, and certain orthopedic issues. The latter involve construction workers injured on the job or those suffering physical harm when fleeing the scene. Workers may receive additional compensation beyond that of their workers' compensation. 

Victim Compensation Fund Awards

Initial awards are as follows:

Respiratory and related illnesses: up to $90,000

Cancers: up to $250,000 for most cancer awards. With the exception of basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma, which gets $90,000, most cancers will get close to or at the $250K level.

While the VCF generally doesn't compound awards even if there are multiple illnesses, there are exceptions.

On top of the above, which is considered the "non-economic loss," the Fund can award economic loss, generally considered loss of earnings, although they sometimes will award replacement services. This means the victim must hire someone to perform normal chores, such as housekeeping or yard maintenance. 

Loss of income can be a large number if someone cannot work or work at the same level and is younger. Typically, the VCF recognizes a loss of income to age 65.  For example, a 50-year-old with brain cancer who cannot work and earns $100,000 might receive $100,000 for 15 years, along with the loss of pension and fringe benefits. In general, the VCF recognizes a maximum of $200,000 per year. 

Deadline to File With the Victim Compensation Fund

Keep two deadlines in mind for the claim filing process. The first is the Registration Deadline, and the second is the Claim Filing Deadline.  

The Claim Filing Deadline is the same for everyone:  October 1, 2090.  Registration is not synonymous with filing a claim, and this deadline varies according to individual situations. Please contact our firm for detailed information about the VCF’s Registration Deadlines to understand what is applicable to your situation. 

July 29, 2021, is the deadline date for VCF registrations for those meeting the following criteria: You are only required to register with the VCF by July 29, 2021, if you meet the following circumstances:        

  • Those certified by the World Trade Center (“WTC”) Health Program for a 9/11-related physical health condition before July 29, 2019; or
  • Registering to file a claim for an individual who it is believed died of a 9/11-related physical health condition before July 29, 2019.

How Long Will a Decision Take for My VCF Claim?

In most cases, claims are reviewed in a “ first-in, first-out” order based on the date of the compensation claim submission. For claims submitted after August 1, 2016, this is the date the Claim Form was submitted. VCF places a priority on claims that have been waiting before newer submission reviews begin.

The VCF is continuing its efforts to shorten the time frame necessary for the review process and deciding a claim. The goal is to issue determinations within 12 months of submission of the claim form or amendment, assuming that all relevant information needed for claim processing has been submitted.

This Claim Review Timeline information reflects the status of claims under review. Currently, claims submitted between January and April 2019 are receiving award decisions, while those submitted between April and July 2019 are in substantive review. Claims submitted between August and September 2019 are soon to come under substantive review, and those submitted between November and December 2019 are in the preliminary review.

Keep in mind that every VCF claim is reviewed and calculated individually. Expect complex claims to take longer to reach completion. Those victims dying of a 9/11-related condition usually fall into the complex claim category.

That is because these claims require the submission and review of a significant amount of information and documentation for use in award calculation. For example, third-party information necessary to determine an award includes pension details, life insurance, and Social Security Survivors Benefits, but that is just part of the necessary material. The VCF is also required to review information such as employer benefits and verify dependents. It is necessary to confirm the personal representative of a deceased individual filing the claim possesses the legal authority to do so.

Once the VCF begins reviewing the claim, the fund will contact your attorney if any additional information is needed. The best way to help speed the review of a claim is to respond promptly to any request.

Can I Get My Victim Compensation Fund Claim Review Accelerated?

When terminal illness or significant financial hardship is involved, it is possible to request that the VCF expedite claim processing. “Significant financial hardship” may include imminent or pending foreclosure or eviction proceedings, utility cut-offs, or similar circumstances, as per the VCF. Appropriate supporting documents are needed for such claims.

Those seeking expedited processing of their claims based on a terminal diagnosis or financial hardship should seek legal representation if they have not already done so. These are complicated matters best served by attorneys specializing in VCF claims.

After an attorney at Gregory Cannata & Associates submits your claim, the VCF reviews the request and generally grants or denies the request within 48 hours. When a claim is approved for expedited processing, as long as proper documentation is submitted, the VCF usually processes the claim, issues the award amount, and processes the payment within four weeks.  In such instances, the claim payment is issued upon the sending of the award letter. Claimants have a right to appeal within the 30-day appeal period.

When a claimant who has filed a personal injury claim dies, the VCF stops processing the claim or payment of the claim until a Personal Representative of a deceased individual, or decedent, is appointed and validated by the VCF. This is done to protect the decedent’s personal information while ensuring deceased claim details are shared only with individuals authorized to access the information.

When the VCF learns that a claimant has died, it sends a letter to the decedent’s last known address explaining the personal injury claim’s current status. It also includes the steps the Personal Representative must take in order for the VCF to continue processing the decedent’s claim.

Get Started Today With a New York VCF Attorney

If you or a loved one developed cancer or another serious illness due to exposure to World Trade Center dust and debris, contact Gregory Cannata & Associates. Call us today at 1-888-982-8428 to arrange a free consultation.

Our World Trade Center Victim Compensation Fund attorneys have recovered over $300 million for World Trade Center injury victims. Having served as lead counsel, appointed by the federal court in the World Trade Center litigation, we take pride in our personalized approach, giving victims and families the attention and time that they deserve. Our legal services are without fee to you until a recovery is obtained.

Updated Blog: 12-03-2020


Robert A. 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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