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Understanding the Difference between the WTC Health Program’s Disaster Area and the VCF’s NYC Exposure Zone


To receive a monetary award from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for a 9/11-related health condition, responders and survivors must prove that they were in a specific area during a given period of time. Similarly, to be entitled to health monitoring and medical treatment from the WTC Health Program for a 9/11 illness, responders and survivors must prove they were physically present at a certain location. However, it’s important to understand that the eligibility criteria for each entity regarding presence encompasses different geographical areas. 

What Is the WTC Health Program’s Disaster Area?

The WTC Health Program defines the “New York City Disaster Area” as the area in Manhattan south of Houston Street. It also includes any block in Brooklyn that is wholly or partially contained within a 1.5 mile radius of Ground Zero. Survivors who lived, worked, or went to school in this area may qualify for the Program if they meet the time period and minimum hour requirements for the specific group to which they belong. 

The responder eligibility area encompasses all of lower Manhattan south of Canal Street. In addition, those who performed duties along the debris route, on certain barge loading piers, or at the Staten Island landfill may also meet the WTC Health Program criteria, provided the work was conducted within the applicable time frame. The Program also imposes specific minimum hour requirements, ranging from four to 80 hours, based on the activity carried out.

Although the two entities are separate and distinct, it’s essential to be aware that it is necessary to satisfy the eligibility requirements for the WTC Health Program before you are eligible for compensation from the VCF. Critically, a responder or survivor must first have their 9/11-related health condition certified by the WTC Health Program in order to receive an award from the VCF.   

What Is the VCF’s NYC Exposure Zone?

The New York City Exposure Zone is defined by the VCF as any area in Manhattan south of Canal Street or “along the routes of debris removal.” This can include barges, bus depots, and the Fresh Kills landfill located in Staten Island. Significantly, the VCF requires that eligible responders and survivors provide documentation to prove that they were present in this area in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks when they submit a claim.     

The VCF will typically accept proof of presence in the form of employment records, school records, utility bills, sworn affidavits, or various other documents, depending on the facts and circumstances. However, documentation will not be considered if it does not include a precise date and location. Some employers work directly with the VCF to provide the necessary information regarding proof of presence in the NYC Exposure Zone.    

If affidavits are used in support of presence, it must contain specific details about the times, dates, locations, and tasks performed. Importantly, the VCF will not accept an affidavit that uses “Ground Zero” as the location to demonstrate presence. A precise address, cross street, intersection, or other details must be provided.  

Contact an Experienced 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney

If you’re a 9/11 responder or survivor, you might be entitled to receive compensation from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund as well as medical care from the WTC Health Program. However, understanding the eligibility requirements can be confusing, and it’s best to have a skilled 9/11 VCF attorney by your side to help ensure you obtain the benefits and the 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 more than a decade. For a free consultation, contact us today.


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