Through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which was created following the terrorist attacks in The World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, victims’ families and survivors can claim economic and non-economic damages.
During its original run, the VCF aimed to compensate individuals who directly got injured and killed during the attacks. Later on, it was amended, expanding its scope to include other individuals who were affected by the attacks such as first responders, volunteers, and individuals who are considered to be within the exposure zone.
Here are some updates you need to know about the compensation program.
1. VCF Has Two Major Components
Aside from the Victim Compensation Fund, the government also created the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP), to assist 9/11 survivors and victims. The difference is that the VCF takes charge of the economic and non-economic compensations, while the latter is responsible for monitoring and managing health issues the victims suffered due to the attack. It’d be good to note that most health-related claims have to pass through WTCHP validation. You can learn more about this claim by reading this blog post
Authorities added WTCHP to the original terms of the VCP a decade following the attacks. In 2011, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Fund was initiated to extend the VCF’s scope to the first responders who were injured or suffered health and emotional trauma while participating in the recovery and cleanup efforts. The law was named after the New York Police Officer who died in 2006 following exposure to the Twin Towers’ toxic debris when it collapsed.
2. VCF Has Been Extended And Amended Three Times
The original compensation and health program concluded its operation in 2004. However, the government soon realized the victims’ long-term needs, and the program was re-opened in 2010 by then-President Barrack Obama. The reactivation was meant to last until 2016 but was extended until December 2020. Alongside the extension, authorities amended some provisions too, including the compensation amount and methods.
The program was amended once again in 2019 with the approval of the VCF Permanent Authorization Act.
3. You Can File A Claim Until October 1, 2090
Claimants should be mindful of the claim filing and registration due dates. It’s often hard to miss these deadlines, as states continue to commemorate 9/11 with various activities such as heroes run, short film screening, memorial ceremonies, and more. During these gatherings, local agencies provide updates about the program.
- The registry period is within two years following the WTCHP or any federal agency’s confirmation of the injury or loss. The same holds for deceased claims, where a representative must register within two years following the death of a confirmed 9/11 victim.
- All applicants are requested to file as soon as possible, ideally after the WTCHP certifies their health condition. However, the law also states that victims can claim until October 1, 2090.
All individuals have the same claim filing deadline as stated above, while registration dates vary based on the type of claim you’re making. A good rule of thumb is to gather the required documents as soon as possible.
4. VCF Claimants Come From All Over The World
According to the 20th Anniversary Special report released by the VCF, around 67,000 eligibility claims have been submitted since 2011. Additionally, 48% of individuals seeking compensation are battling cancer.
The report also announced that it received applications from all over the US and its territories. It’s likewise processing claims from citizens from 31 other countries.
5. Caps For Non-Economic Damages Are Flexible
Of all the types of claims, non-economic damages remain the most challenging, as it’s often not quantifiable. Apart from the psychiatric bills, it’s nearly impossible to put a price tag on non-economic claims such as mental anguish and distress, the emotional pain of losing a loved one, loss of motivation, and so on.
The pre-2019 VCF set the caps for these claims at USD 250,000 for cancer-related claims and USD 90,000 for other claims. While caps have remained, the amended law offers flexibility on a case-to-case basis. However, claims for economic losses have no monetary restrictions.
The Bottom Line
Despite the deadline extension for the Victim Compensation Fund claims, individuals whose family members perished or were injured during the 9/11 attacks need to register and apply for claims as soon as they can. It’s important to note that the agency operates on a ‘first-come, first-served basis,’ and each application can take time, as it’s thoroughly reviewed and scrutinized.
The earlier you file, the better your chances are of getting reimbursed for costly medical fees and other expenses.