Your Rights and Responsibilities for Filing a WTC VCF Claim
January 7, 2019 | World Trade Center
“There is only one September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (“VCF”), which is funded by the federal government and administered through the U.S. Department of Justice. The VCF was created to provide compensation for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes. The original VCF operated from 2001-2004” (VCF.gov).
Amending VCF Applications For Additional Claims
Not all illnesses and medical conditions related to the events of 9/11 were immediately apparent and not all that show up later on in life present themselves at the same exact time. Years can go by between the diagnosis of one condition and the diagnosis of a separate 9/11 illness or cancer. Additionally, new conditions continue to be certified as 9/11-related and thus eligible for treatment through the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) and compensation from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. You can have immediate injuries and illnesses related to the attack and your work at ground zero or in the recue and clean-up process. However, other illnesses such as mesothelioma or other cancers and serious health conditions may not show up for years, and even then they may be scattered in their diagnosis.
Because of this, it is not unusual for 9/11 victim compensation claimants to get new and additional diagnosis after their initial claim has been filed. Sometimes a new diagnosis of cancer or other life-altering illness can occur ten or so years after the claim had been filed and even after they receive an award from the 9/11 VCF.
Fortunately, VCF rules permit claimants who get an official diagnosis of a new condition that can be shown to be directly connected to the events of 9/11 to amend their claims and seek additional compensation for that new condition, even after the VCF has issued an award. The official wording of the rules and regulations permit applicants the ability to amend their claim to add a new conditions at any time prior to December 18, 2020, even if some kind of award was already given for another condition by the VCF department.
Common Heath Issues Reported With VCF Applications
While the events of the terrorist attack that day were horrific, the suffering the suffering has continued even now more than a decade later. The individuals who survived the attack, assisted with rescue efforts and spent months on cleanup details have become ill due to the exposure to materials like asbestos, chemicals, and other toxin exposure during the attack. These conditions are often life-altering and often means the end of life as they once knew and some even bring about the literal end of a person’s life. Here are some of the most common injuries and illnesses that are reported on VCF award applications:
Physical injuries were the most common and most prolific of injuries seen and dealt with immediately in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. From falling debris to fires and other effects from the exposure, physical injuries ranged from concussions and broken bones to paralysis and missing limbs. Rescue workers also suffered severe injuries during clean up and dangerous rescue attempts. The physical injuries are also some of the injuries that linger the longest.
The shock and trauma for those who survived the attack and dealt with rescue and clean up work lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among all WTC-exposed populations. Everyone from trained to the everyday worker experienced varying levels of mental distress following the attack. Other mental conditions such as anxiety, bipolar disorders, panic attacks, and social phobias have been documented as well.
Tens of thousands of rescue and recovery workers, residents and office workers, medical and first responder teams, and those living in the city below Canal Street at the time of attack have reported lung, throat, and sinus problems. Cases of lung cancer, COPD, and other serious lung disorders increased several years after the attack and those diagnosed with these conditions saw their symptoms quickly worsen and many ultimately died as a result of their illnesses.
Other illnesses and health conditions have been diagnosed in 9/11 victims. Some of the common illnesses listed on applications include GERD, back and neck injuries, vision impairment, hearing loss, depression, suicidal thoughts, and many more. These conditions destroy quality of life for victims. This is why these illnesses and health conditions often times go a long way in helping to qualify people for assistance from the VCF and earn them an award from the fund.
Important Point to Remember Concerning Maximum Awards
It is important to remember that if you have new information or a new diagnosis to add to your VCF application you are free to do so. However, it is also important to remember that you will not necessarily get more award money simply because you have a new condition to add. The amount of non-economic loss awarded to any claimant is not tied to the number of conditions certified by the WTC Health Program. Instead, the award amount varies by type, severity, and the impact of condition(s) on your life. In other words, receiving additional certifications from the WTC Health Program will not necessarily mean a higher non-economic loss award. By statute, non-economic loss awards are capped at $90,000 for a non-cancer condition and $250,000 for a cancer condition. This means that, except in rare circumstances where a claimant is certified with multiple cancers or with a cancer and a severe non-cancer condition, the Special Master does not have discretion to make a non-economic loss award above $250,000.
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