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Can You File a 9/11 VCF Claim if You Lived in the NYC Exposure Zone?


After the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, a toxic dust cloud covered lower Manhattan in the months ahead. Thousands of responders and survivors suffered countless adverse health effects due to breathing in the carcinogens that spread throughout the air in the NYC Exposure Zone — including those who lived, worked, or went to school in the area. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund allows survivors to receive compensation for the economic and non-economic losses they’ve suffered in connection with their 9/11-related health conditions. 

VCF Eligibility Requirements for Survivors

The VCF allows eligible survivors to submit claims for compensation to the VCF for their 9/11-related health conditions if they lived, worked, went to school, or spent time in the NYC Exposure Zone in the “immediate aftermath” of the terrorist attacks. This time frame is defined under the Zadroga Act as the period between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002. The VCF doesn’t impose any requirements concerning the minimum amount of time spent in the NYC Exposure Zone.  

However, survivors must also ensure that their 9/11-related physical health condition is certified by the WTC Health Program before submitting a VCF claim. It’s important to understand that the VCF will not consider any claim that has not first been certified by the program. 

Proving Presence in the Exposure Zone for 9/11 Survivors 

Whether they lived in the area, went to school there, worked there, or were present for another reason, survivors must provide proof that they were in the Exposure Zone in order to be compensated by the VCF for their eligible condition. The NYC Exposure Zone consists of any area in Manhattan below Canal Street. It also includes locations along the debris removal routes, bus depots, barges, and the Fresh Kills landfill.    

Importantly, survivors need to submit documentation with their claims to demonstrate their presence in the NYC Exposure Zone during the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Depending on the circumstances of your presence, this proof may come in the form of:

  • Apartment leases or rental agreements
  • Dated utility bills
  • Mortgage receipts
  • Proof of rent payment
  • School transcripts
  • School or daycare attendance records
  • Employment pay stubs 
  • A letter from your employer
  • Employment records
  • A detailed personal statement
  • Affidavits

If school records are used to demonstrate presence, the VCF requires that they are certified. Alternatively, they can be accompanied by a letter from a school employee or your attorney, attesting to their truthfulness. Any documents submitted to the VCF should be dated to demonstrate that you were in the area during the applicable timeframe.  

The WTC Health Program’s Criteria for Survivors

Since it opened, nearly 30,000 survivors have enrolled in the WTC Health Program for medical monitoring and treatment for 9/11-related health conditions such as various forms of cancers, aerodigestive disorders, asthma, GERD, sleep apnea, and respiratory issues linked to the chemicals found at Ground Zero and throughout the locations that encompass what the WTC Health Program defines as the “NYC Disaster Area” — a different geographic region which is larger in scope than the VCF’s Exposure Zone.

The WTC Health Program is a separate program from the VCF, but both work together to ensure survivors obtain certification for their 9/11-related health conditions to obtain VCF compensation. While a 9/11-related illness, disease, or injury must first be certified by the WTC Health Program, it’s important to understand that the two programs have different presence criteria. 

Although the VCF’s regulations do not specify a certain amount of time that a survivor must have spent in the NYC Exposure Zone, the WTC Health Program has specific minimum time requirements concerning presence. Survivors who lived, worked, and attended school or daycare in the NYC Disaster Area, from September 11, 2001 to January 10, 2002, must have spent at least four days there to meet the WTC Health Program’s eligibility criteria. Those who were in the area at any time between September 11, 2001 until July 31, 2002 must have been present for 30 days. For the purposes of the WTC Health Program’s eligibility requirements, four hours is equivalent to one day.     

Contact a New York City 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney

If you’re a 9/11 survivor who suffers from an eligible 9/11-related physical health condition, you may be entitled to receive compensation from the VCF. Understanding the regulations associated with submitting a VCF claim can be confusing, frustrating, and overwhelming — it’s best to have the guidance of an experienced 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorney who can help ensure you receive the maximum compensation you deserve. 

The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorneys at The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. have represented claimants and their families in 9/11 VCF claims for over a decade. For a free consultation, contact us today. 


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