This year marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, otherwise known as 9/11 or Patriot Day. More than two decades since this horrific incident at the World Trade Center (WTC), the survivors continue to pay the price with their deteriorating health and emotional scars.
To temporarily alleviate the pain and suffering of the affected individuals, the government launched the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). The program aims to provide compensation for qualified individuals affected by the attack.
Here’s an essential guide about the VCF: what it is, its eligibility requirements, and the documents you need to submit.
What Is The Victim Compensation Fund?
Days following the chilling attack on September 11, the United States government had seen thousands of affected individuals in and out of the WTC, suffering from losses, physical injuries, and, later, long-term medical illnesses.
This prompted the creation of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, which aims to provide individuals or their loved ones who were victims of the attack. Emergency responders and those involved in the restoration and recovery efforts are also included in the victim compensation program.
The VCF originally ran from 2001 to 2004 but has since been renewed three times. In 2010, former President Barrack Obama signed the Zadroga Act to revive the VCF effective from 2011 to 2016.
The law was again reactivated in 2015, extending until December 2020. This reauthorization proposed necessary changes, including placing repayment limits to non-economic losses from cancer and non-cancer diseases and imposing a USD$200,000-limit to annual income for economic loss calculations.
In 2019, former President Donald Trump signed the VCF Permanent Authorization Act, which has extended the claim filing due date from December 18, 2020, to October 1, 2090. The law also authorizes concerned agencies to allocate funds enough to pay all of the eligible claims.
Who Are Eligible?
VCF provides compensation to all victims of the 9/11 WTC attacks, particularly those who lost their lives, were injured, or got sick just by being within the exposure zone. This is because victims of 9/11 continue to suffer from chronic pain, cancer, and other debilitating diseases.
Those paying for hefty cancer treatment costs can claim medical payment coverage from the VCF. The fund also covers other charges, including lost wages, disability, and mental anguish after being diagnosed with cancer, leukemia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among other serious illnesses.
As such, the following individuals may be eligible to file a VCF claim:
- WTC survivors. These are anyone who was at ground zero or the New York City (NYC) Exposure Zone as described on the VCF website.
- NYC firefighters. These are the New York first responders who spent at least four hours at the ground zero, Staten Island Landfill, and Chief Medical Examiner’s Office from September 11, 2001 to July 31, 2002.
- WTC responders. These are nonfirefighters involved in body recovery and debris clearing activities and have spent at least four hours between September 11, 2001 to July 31, 2002, in any affected areas, including the morgue, piers, barges, emergency vehicle garages, and Lower Manhattan south of Canal Street.
- COVID-19 related deaths. The VCF has recently added compensation coverage for 9/11 survivors who have died due to COVID-19. Most of them have been suffering from severe respiratory issues for years due to the attacks, making them more vulnerable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
To qualify, you must register within the deadline applicable to your case. And get the necessary documents ready to support your claim.
What Documents Are Needed To File A Claim?
The documents vary depending on the type of claim you have. Below are the required documents, at the minimum:
- A filled out VCF claim form;
- Signature page;
- ‘Release of Medical Records’ authorization;
- Payment authorization provided by your lawyer;
- Proof of presence at the 9/11 ground zero or exposure zone;
- Proof of injury or injuries;
- Social Security Administration Consent form, if claiming for economic loss;
- Absence of or waiver of 9/11-related lawsuits; and
- An impact statement and medical records showing non-economic loss.
If your loved one or family member passed away due to a 9/11-related health condition, the VCF requires that you file additional documents, such as:
- Claim form;
- Documents showing you as the appointed Personal Representative or Administrator of the Estate;
- Death certificate; and
- Life insurance information.
Though thousands of individuals continue to suffer from the long-term and debilitating repercussions of the 9/11 attacks, the permanent authorization of the Victim Compensation Fund can somehow provide families with the financial support they desperately need. And while the VCF can’t bring back their loved ones or restore their health, it can still serve as a reminder that the country will never forget and continue to honor their sacrifice and pain.