More than two decades have passed since September 11, 2009—one of the most pivotal and defining moments in US history. Infamously known as the 9/11 attacks, the chilling event resulted in almost 3,000 deaths, including the 19 alleged attackers, and about 6,000 injuries.
The ramifications of the attacks are so damaging that in 2013, medical experts estimated that more than 1,000 individuals, most of which were within the Lower Manhattan area at the time of the attacks, were diagnosed with cancer. Additionally, some 1,400 rescue workers were said to have perished from fatal effects of their exposure to toxic chemicals.
Because of the impact of these attacks, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was created on September 22, just days after the incident, to provide assistance to families whose loved ones either perished or suffered injuries.
The Initial 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Disbursed Over USD$7B Until 2003
The Congress enacted the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act, which is meant to cushion the airline industry from the impact of the 9/11 attacks.
The Victim Compensation Fund was also designed to hand out compensation to those who lost their loved ones, or were injured, whether survivors or responders, due to the plane crashes and the explosions.
However, filing a claim also means that the family is waiving their rights to take the airlines to court. Upon its closure in December 2003, over USD$7 billion was paid out to 5,560 families in total.
The Reopening Of The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund
In 2011, the 9/11 VCF program was reopened when former President Barrack Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. Eligibility extended to those who developed serious illnesses after getting involved in the 9/11 rescue efforts from September 2001 to May 2002. Even those who are staying, living, and going to school in the nearby areas may be qualified to claim. Medical monitoring and treatment are also covered by this refreshed program.
The program was supposed to accept applications until October 2016, but was extended through 2020 via a reauthorization law. The amended law also made changes to the procedures and policies, including limits to non-economic loss claims and prioritizing claims for victims facing the worst cases. For instance, those with certain types of cancer.
The VCF Permanent Authorization Act
The VCF Permanent Authorization Act was signed into law in July 2019, providing additional payment to survivors and rescuers, and extending the deadline for filing claims until October 1, 2090.
Otherwise known as the ‘Never Forget the Heroes VCF Fund Act’, this assures that the VCF will remain functional until 2092.
VCF Coverage For Specific Injuries Or Illnesses
Victims of the 9/11 attacks who are living with chronic pain due to cancer and other forms of serious diseases can also claim compensation to spend for their medical costs via VCF. As mentioned, the program covers persons in charge of the rescue and ensuing clean-up operations, as well as those living and studying near the attack site. The VCF may also cover out-of-pocket costs, lost wages, disability, and mental anguish after acquiring cancer, mesothelioma, leukemia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pulmonary fibrosis, among others.
VCF Coverage For 9/11 Survivors Who Died Of COVID-19
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund has also added coverage for families of the 9/11 survivors who died due to COVID-19, and whose death occurred either before July 29, 2019, or on or before July 29, 2021.
This is because survivors of the attacks are more prone to the coronavirus infection according to the CDC, being that most of them have been grappling with serious respiratory and pulmonary issues for years following the attacks.
According to the World Trade Health Program, which is funded by the VCF and run by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, there had been at least 1,300 individuals who lived and worked near ground zero who have acquired COVID-19. Read more information about this VCF claims update.
What Documents Do I Need To File A Claim?
The required documents vary depending on the type of claim to be filed. The most common documents that you’ll have to prepare, among others, are:
- Filled out claim form
- Authorization for “Release of Medical Records”
- Automated Clearing House (ACH) payment information form
- Payment authorization provided by your lawyer
- Proof of presence at the 9/11 Crash Site
- Proof of injury/injuries
- (Absence of) Lawsuits related to the 9/11 attacks
- Impact statement and medical records showing non-economic loss (i.e. pain and suffering)
If claiming for loss of past and future earnings, claimants must submit additional documents from their employer and Social Security Administration Form. Additional documents are needed for claims made on behalf of the actual victim.
The 9/11 attacks have long-term damages, leaving survivors and their loved ones with scars that don’t seem to heal. As if rubbing salt to the wound, some of these victims didn’t succumb to their illnesses, only to perish from COVID-19 infection. While it’s far from providing a one-off solution, the Victim Compensation Fund offers families a temporary reminder that no one should ever die in vain.