A monetary award from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund can be crucial for responders and survivors who suffered adverse health conditions in connection with inhaling the chemicals in the toxic dust cloud. However, there are several reasons a VCF claim might be rejected. It’s essential to understand that if your claim is denied, you might still have options available to pursue compensation.
You May Be Eligible to File an Appeal
When you receive a VCF claim eligibility denial, it will come with an Appeal Request Form if you are entitled to file an appeal. The letter will specify the eligibility requirements you did not meet and instructions for how to appeal the decision on that basis. For instance, if the information you submitted was deemed insufficient to establish your presence in the NYC Exposure Zone, you could file an appeal if you believe it does, in fact, support your claim and you’ve exhausted all other avenues to obtain documentation.
An appeal should only be submitted regarding an eligibility decision if you cannot obtain any other supporting documents, and testimony is the only way you will be able to establish presence. Importantly, you only have 30 days from the notification of your ineligibility to indicate your intention to appeal. The appeal itself must be submitted within 60 days from the date on your decision letter.
Consider Documents That May Support Your Claim
Before you file an appeal, think about any documents that might be available to establish presence. Depending upon the circumstances surrounding your presence, these could be from an employer, school, union, or former coworker. You may be able to prove your eligibility by submitting such documentation as an amendment to your claim and avoid going through the process for a VCF appeal and hearing.
In addition to inadequate proof of presence documentation, claims are also frequently denied by the VCF for failure to have a condition certified by the WTC Health Program. A claim might also be rejected for failure to file a completed form or due to failure to comply with a request for additional information.
Present Testimony at a VCF Appeal Hearing
After you submit your appeal, the VCF will make a determination as to whether it is valid. If your appeal can proceed, the VCF will schedule you to appear at an appeal hearing. While eligibility hearings are conducted virtually, compensation appeal hearings are done by phone. They are conducted by a hearing officer and allow you to give testimony, bring witnesses, and present evidence in support of your appeal. Typically, VCF appeals hearings are informal and last no longer than one hour.
Amend Your Claim If Circumstances Have Changed Since the Denial
It’s vital to understand that there is a separate process for VCF amendments — they are not the same as appeals. Specifically, if you seek a revised determination from the VCF based on new information that was not submitted with your claim, you should amend your claim, not appeal it. You can also amend your claim if it was denied because you did not submit information to the VCF within the requested time frame or your circumstances have changed since the VCF issued its denial.
Contact an Experienced New York 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney
Appealing a VCF claim denial can be stressful and overwhelming. An experienced 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorney can assess the denial you were issued and evaluate whether you have viable grounds to appeal. But it’s critical that you don’t delay — the clock on your time to appeal starts ticking when the VCF issues your denial.
The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorneys at The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. have successfully represented claimants and their families in VCF claims for over a decade. For a free consultation, contact us today.