Thousands of 9/11 responders and survivors have developed a variety of illnesses and cancers due to inhaling the toxins in the dust cloud that covered lower Manhattan in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. Many who were at Ground Zero and in the surrounding area continue to develop 9/11-related illnesses and cancers more than 20 years later. Importantly, the Zadroga Act established the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to ensure eligible responders and survivors obtain the monetary recovery to which they’re entitled. If you are an eligible responder or survivor, it’s essential to understand the steps you need to take to file a VCF claim.
1. Obtain Certification for Your Health Condition from the WTC Health Program
Before the VCF will issue compensation for any claim you file, the World Trade Center Health Program must first certify your health condition. The Program has a separate set of eligibility criteria from the VCF and is a distinct entity. However, the Program and VCF work together to help ensure eligible responders and survivors obtain the compensation they deserve for their 9/11-related illnesses. Once a responder or survivor is certified by the Program, they can also receive ongoing health monitoring and medical treatment for any 9/11-related diseases and cancers.
2. Verify Your Eligibility for VCF Compensation
To receive compensation from the VCF for a 9/11-related health condition, you must satisfy specific eligibility criteria. In addition to obtaining certification from the WTC Health Program and establishing that your illness is linked to the toxic dust cloud, you must show that you were present in the NYC Exposure Zone in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks. This geographical area is defined as the area in lower Manhattan south of Canal Street, as well as the barges and Fresh Kills landfill. Critically, the VCF’s “NYC Exposure Zone” is a different area than the location defined by the WTC Health Program as the “NYC Disaster Area.”
The immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks is the statutory time period defined under the Zadroga Act as any date between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002. For VCF purposes, there is no minimum time requirement that a responder or survivor must have spent in the NYC Exposure Zone. However, it’s crucial to note that the WTC Health Program imposes minimum time requirements, depending upon the category to which a claimant belongs, in order to certify a health condition.
3. Register with the VCF
Prior to filing your claim with the VCF, you must first register to file a claim. While registration does not require you to file a claim, it preserves your right to do so in the future. It’s vital to understand that registration is a separate process from filing a claim — and there are different registration deadlines, depending on your specific circumstances. Generally, you have two years from the date of your most recent WTC Health Program certification to register with the VCF for a personal injury claim. But if you registered before July 29, 2021, you have satisfied the deadline, and it is not necessary to register again. You can also register with the VCF before your condition is certified by the WTC Health Program.
4. File Your VCF Claim
The process of filing a VCF claim involves submitting a claim form and supporting documentation to establish your eligibility for compensation. For a personal injury claim, the VCF will not begin its review of your claim until it has received a signature page, authorization for release of medical records, and documentation to support your presence in the NYC Exposure Zone. The VCF may also request additional information if necessary during the review process. The claim filing deadline for all VCF claims is October 1, 2090.
Contact an Experienced New York City 9/11 VCF Attorney
If you are a responder or survivor who was diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness or cancer, you may be entitled to an award from the VCF. However, the VCF’s claim filing procedures are often confusing, and it’s best to have the representation of a skillful VCF attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure you obtain the compensation to which you’re entitled.