June 23, 2016
By Pitta Giblin & Baione LLP
So far, 2016 has been a very productive year for administrators and staff of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (“VCF”), the federal program that provides financial compensation to first responders, area workers, residents, and other survivors suffering from illnesses caused by 9/11 toxins exposure.
Since the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was reauthorized on December 18, 2016, the VCF has announced payments of over $1.52 billion to claimants as of June 16 and authorization of full payments to 8,930 claimants as of June 12. Pitta Giblin & Baione LLP applauds the VCF for these remarkable accomplishments that have helped countless lives affected by 9/11-related illnesses.
The VCF has also been hard at work to interpret and implement changes made by the reauthorized Zadroga Act. The reauthorized Zadroga Act required the VCF to publish new rules by June 15, 2016 and to provide a 30-day period for public comments. The VCF has met this
deadline and the new rules are now available for comment. While most VCF processes and procedures remain the same, the labor community should be aware of the following key changes:
- The deadline to file a claim is now December 18, 2020. This is the new date by which all paperwork must be completed to receive compensation.
- $4.6B will become immediately available in October 2016, and payments will be issued in full as each claim is finalized.
- All registration deadlines remain intact. This is the date by which claimants must register for the VCF. Generally, this deadline is two years from the date of diagnosis or death related to 9/11-conditions.
- There are now caps on the total amount of pain and suffering damages for cancer ($250,000) and non-cancer conditions ($90,000). These caps only apply per condition and no cap exists on the total amount of pain and suffering caused by multiple conditions.
- When calculating economic losses for disabled or deceased individuals, there is now a $200,000 cap on annual earnings. For example, if an individual’s annual income was $300,000 and a 9/11-related condition causes total permanent disability, they are only eligible to recover $200,000 per year.
- Individuals suffering from the most debilitating physical conditions must be prioritized, meaning those with less severe conditions will likely receive lower awards than they would have prior to the reauthorization.
- Previously, submission of full federal and state tax returns was required for all claims. Now, tax returns are only required when deemed necessary by the VCF.
- In the past, $10,000 was awarded to claimants whose offsets (money granted from other sources for the same condition, such as disability payments) were greater than the loss determined by the VCF. Such individuals will no longer will no longer receive an award.
- Reimbursement for future medical expenses has been removed from the program since the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP), a network of clinics that provides free monitoring and treatment, has been extended to 2090.
With regard to the new regulations, VCF Special Master Sheila Birnbaum commented “It has taken a tremendous amount of work to update the regulations to reflect the reauthorization law and to redesign the claim form to make it easier to use, while at the same time continuing
to implement the other changes required by the reauthorization. I encourage claimants to review the new sample claim form and begin gathering the relevant information and documents so they are prepared to submit their claim when the form becomes available online and in hard copy at the end of July. I realize no amount of money can alleviate the losses suffered on Sept. 11, 2001, but the 9-11 community is one of great resilience, and the men and women who are working so hard to process VCF claims are proud and privileged to work with all of you.”