As a result of 9/11-related injuries and illnesses, many first responders and survivors applied for Workers’ Compensation to ease their economic burdens. Additionally, many also filed for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Although these programs may have provided some financial support to those who could not work due to their 9/11 health conditions, they likely were not adequate to cover the full extent of losses suffered.
If you’re an eligible responder or survivor, you may be entitled to a monetary award from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund — even if you already received disability payments from a collateral source.
Who Qualifies for a 9/11 Social Security Disability Claim?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provide monthly payments to responders and survivors who are unable to work as a result of a 9/11-related disability.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) imposes strict eligibility standards. To qualify for a disability under the SSA’s rules, you must establish the following:
- You are unable to work or engage in substantial gainful activity because of a severe medical condition
- You cannot do the work you previously performed or adjust to new work due to your condition
- Your condition has lasted for at least a year or is expected to result in fatality
Additionally, your disability must be on the SSA’s list of impairments. Many of the disabling conditions caused by exposure to the 9/11 toxic dust are included on this list, including cancers and musculoskeletal, respiratory, and digestive system disorders.
To receive SSDI, you must have had a job covered by Social Security. Specifically, SSDI is based on work credits — the number of credits needed to qualify for benefits will depend on your age at the onset of the disability. The criteria for these benefits are different from the requirements to obtain SSI, which is based on income.
This financial relief can be helpful while waiting for a VCF award. But while these payments may include disability and retirement benefits, they do not provide compensation for pain and suffering.
What Is 9/11 Workers’ Compensation?
If you were a 9/11 rescue, recovery, or cleanup worker who was injured or developed an illness as a result of your employment, you may have filed a claim for Workers’ Compensation. These benefits are meant to ease a worker’s financial burden for injuries or illnesses sustained on the job. However, while Workers’ Compensation may have helped you by paying for medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages, it likely was not enough to cover all of your losses — including your lost pension benefits and your non-economic damages.
Although volunteers are not ordinarily entitled to Workers’ Compensation, an exception was made for 9/11 volunteers. The WTC Volunteer Fund, administered through the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, was established to provide cash benefits to eligible individuals who dedicated their time to the recovery and cleanup.
Filing a VCF Claim If You’ve Received Disability Benefits From a Collateral Source
If you received SSDI or Workers’ Compensation in connection with your 9/11 health condition, you can still file a claim with the VCF. In doing so, you may be entitled to additional economic recovery, as well as compensation for your pain and suffering. But the VCF will not award you again for compensation you already received from a collateral source. It will factor in any payment issued by the SSA or Workers’ Compensation when calculating your award and subtract these collateral offsets.
The VCF will obtain the information needed to calculate economic loss directly from the SSA or Workers’ Compensation Board. The VCF will also accept disability determinations from either of these entities. Responders and survivors have an obligation to notify the VCF within 90 days if they have received payment from a collateral source after filing their claim for compensation.
Families who lost loved ones in connection with an illness linked to the toxic dust cloud may also be able to obtain an award from the VCF, even if they received SSA survivor benefits or Workers’ Compensation death benefits.
Contact an Experienced 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney
If you are a responder or survivor who developed a 9/11 health condition, it’s crucial to ensure you secure the compensation you deserve. An experienced 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorney can guide you through the VCF’s registration and claim filing process. The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has been assisting clients with their VCF claims for more than a decade. Contact us to schedule a consultation.