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Can You File a VCF Claim if You Don’t Have Proof of Presence Documentation?

NYPD 9/11 memorial

Two decades later, countless 9/11 responders and survivors continue to develop health conditions as a result of exposure to the toxic dust in the NYC Exposure Zone while they worked on the rescue and recovery operations. While they may be eligible to receive compensation from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, one of the challenges faced by those who developed a 9/11-related illness or cancer with a long latency period can be providing proof of presence. 

As the years have passed, certain documents have been lost or destroyed. As a result, for many responders and survivors, it has become increasingly difficult to satisfy the VCF’s presence criteria. However, if you spent time at Ground Zero or in lower Manhattan in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, you may still be entitled to file a claim for compensation.        

Proof of Presence Information from Specific Employers or Unions

If you don’t have documentation within your possession that can prove presence in the NYC Exposure Zone between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002, there are several avenues you may be able to pursue to recover compensation. Significantly, some employers have arrangements with the VCF, which may make it easier for certain responders to prove presence. 

The following employers may be able to provide you (or in some cases, the VCF directly) with presence information to upload with your claim:

  • The FDNY
  • New York City Department of Sanitation
  • The National Guard
  • New York City Transit Authority
  • New York State Police
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • District Council 37
  • Communications Workers of America (CWA)
  • Lucent Technologies
  • Verizon
  • Consolidated Edison
  • American Red Cross

NYPD officers may submit various documents to establish presence, which the VCF will consider on an individual basis. Those who were employed by the NYPD may also seek assistance from the Police Benevolent Association if they have difficulty obtaining the required documentation. 

Importantly, even if your employer provides the VCF with verification of presence, you may still be required to submit additional documentation to confirm the exact location you performed work. Indicating that you were present at “Ground Zero” or in the “NYC Exposure Zone” is not sufficient — the VCF requires a specific address or cross street in order to process your claim.

Workers’ Compensation and WTC Health Program Records to Confirm Presence

If you filed a claim with Workers’ Compensation or the WTC Volunteer Fund as a result of an injury in connection with your 9/11-related work, the VCF might be able to obtain these records to confirm your presence in the NYC Exposure Zone. However, you should still submit additional information to support your claim.

In addition, if you have enrolled in the WTC Health Program, the VCF can obtain your individual survey responses directly if you provide authorization. While this can be useful to support your claim, the VCF will still require that you submit employment records, a witness presence statement, an affidavit, or other documentation to prove presence.

VCF Claim Denials for Insufficient Proof of Presence

VCF claims may be denied if you cannot satisfy the presence criteria. If the only proof you can submit in support of your presence in the NYC Exposure Zone is a Witness Presence Statement, the VCF may deny your claim if it lacks the necessary level of detail required. The VCF may also issue a “Missing Information” letter if further documentation must be provided.  

If your claim has been denied because you have been unable to establish presence, you may be entitled to file an appeal. If you have taken steps to secure the information required to prove presence, but it is impossible to recover, you may also request that the VCF deny your claim outright and hold an eligibility hearing. This will allow you to have an opportunity to provide testimony concerning your eligibility for compensation and explain your story to the VCF. 

Additionally, if your claim was denied prior to July 29, 2019 due to insufficient presence documentation — and you didn’t appeal — you may still be entitled to request a hearing from the VCF. In this case, you can file an amendment to your initial claim and include a letter requesting a hearing to determine presence. In the letter to the VCF, you should outline the documents you searched for, the measures you took to find them, and explain why they weren’t available.

Contact an Experienced 9/11 VCF Attorney

If you’re a responder or survivor who suffered a 9/11-related health condition and was present in the NYC Exposure Zone between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002, you may be entitled to a monetary award from the VCF. However, securing VCF compensation can be difficult if you are unable to demonstrate presence — it’s best to have an experienced 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorney on your side to help ensure you receive the award 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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