Payouts from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund topped the $3 billion mark this year, surpassing the total originally approved by Congress to help ailing first responders and survivors affected after coming in contact with the toxic pile of rubble that was the World Trade Center.
The VCF, reopened in 2011, announced the latest figures on Friday, four days before the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed thousands of Americans, destroyed the World Trade Center, hit the Pentagon, and sent a plane full of people crashing into a field in Pennsylvania.
In addition to those who worked on the pile at Ground Zero and people who lived or worked in Lower Manhattan, compensation was also provided for claimants in Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa.
VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya said her agency was still working its way through old claims, and currently providing financial aid to victims who filed in late 2015.
Following is a copy of the Department of Justice release which details ways in which victims can make a claim:
Compensation Remains Available to 9-11 Responders and Survivors Affected by Their Exposure; Fund Tops $3 Billion in Awards
Each year, as the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks approaches, the country is reminded of the unprecedented losses suffered. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) acknowledges the important milestones reached in providing support to victims and families and is especially aware of the lives that continue to be affected. The anniversary is a time for the VCF to reaffirm its commitment to the important work that still lies ahead, and to maintain strong and steady progress as the VCF seeks to award compensation to those who continue to suffer. Today, the VCF releases its statistics report and informs the community on its outreach efforts.
The VCF’s statistics report details the enormous strides the VCF has made since its reopening in 2011 and its reauthorization in 2015. As of Aug. 31, the VCF has rendered over 14,000 compensation determinations, including initial awards on new claims, and revised awards on claims with amendments or appeals. These determinations total over $3 billion awarded to VCF claimants, which exceeds the original $2.775 billion authorized by Congress when the VCF reopened in 2011. In all, the VCF has compensated claims from more than 11,500 responders to the attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon, and at the Shanksville site, as well as more than 2,400 others who lived, worked, or traveled through areas of lower Manhattan and suffered physical health conditions as a result of their exposure to debris and toxins generated by the attacks and their aftermath.
“I am keenly aware that each and every one of these claims represents a life forever-changed,” said VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya. “I am also aware of the tremendous need for compensation that exists in the 9/11 community. We are committed to making improvements wherever possible in order to process claims as quickly and efficiently as possible, without compromising accuracy, thoroughness, or fairness. I am pleased to report that we continue to make progress in rendering decisions on the oldest claims, and are now issuing awards on claims filed in the later part of 2015. Our efforts to accelerate the speed of claims processing are ongoing and an absolute priority.”
The VCF is also increasing its efforts to identify those who may be eligible for compensation because they suffer physical health effects as a result of their exposure but are not aware of the VCF, and is working with partners in the community to extend its reach. Information regarding the VCF was recently mailed to the enrolled membership of the World Trade Center Health Program. The VCF is participating in several events this week to increase awareness of and answer questions regarding the VCF. These include a Facebook Live Event hosted by 9/11 Health Watch(link is external), meetings of the WTC Health Program Responder and Survivor Steering Committees, a town hall hosted by United We Stand of New York and the Voices of 9/11 16th Annual Day of Remembrance Information Forum(link is external).
VCF Special Master Bhattacharyya added, “The anniversary is always a time to look back and commemorate the lives lost or forever changed by 9/11. It is also a time to look forward and assure the members of the 9/11 community that they are not forgotten, and that as a nation, we are committed to providing help to those who need it. I’m honored to be in a position to so directly serve this community, and, along with my dedicated and talented team, remain deeply committed to ongoing progress.”
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund 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 Sept. 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes. The original VCF operated from 2001 to 2004. On Jan. 2, 2011, President Obama signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (Zadroga Act). Title II of the Zadroga Act reactivated the Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The reactivated VCF opened in October 2011 and was authorized to operate for a period of five years, ending in October 2016. On Dec. 18, 2015, President Obama signed into law a bill reauthorizing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. This included the reauthorization of the VCF. The new law extends the VCF for five years, allowing individuals to submit their claims until Dec. 18, 2020. The law also includes some important changes to the VCF’s policies and procedures for evaluating claims and calculating each claimant’s loss.
For additional information about how to file a claim, please visit the “How to File a Claim” page on the VCF’s website at www.vcf.gov and information on policies and procedures can be obtained at https://www.vcf.gov/pdf/VCFPolicy.pdf. If you have any questions about the claim form, the website, or the VCF process, please contact the VCF’s toll-free Helpline at 1-855-885-1555.
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