The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund seeks to ensure that eligible responders and survivors obtain the compensation they deserve for 9/11-related illnesses they may have developed. However, VCF claims can be rejected for several reasons. If your paperwork wasn’t submitted correctly or the VCF determined you were ineligible, you may have received a denial letter. In these instances, it’s vital to know that you may still be able to pursue compensation by filing an appeal.
Submit an Appeal to the VCF
Receiving a denial letter from the VCF can leave you feeling confused and frustrated. The first thing you should do is check whether your denial came with an Appeal Request Form. This indicates that you have the right to file an appeal regarding the VCF’s determination.
Not to be confused with an amendment — which is used to request a new decision based on updated information — an appeal allows an applicant to ask the VCF to overturn its original decision regarding eligibility or compensation. But it’s critical to understand that you must act quickly. You only have 30 days to file the form notifying the VCF of your intention to appeal.
Gather Additional Documentation to Support Eligibility
If you decide to appeal the VCF’s denial, it’s important to make sure you gather all the necessary documentation required. In the event you did not provide the VCF with enough information to render a decision in your initial claim filing, it’s essential to include it with your appeal. Claims are commonly denied due to failure to provide the following documentation:
- Health condition certification — Your 9/11-related health condition must be certified by the WTC Health Program.
- Proof of presence — You must provide sufficient evidence that you were present in the NYC Exposure Zone in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
- Completed forms — Filing a claim for compensation with the VCF involves filling out various forms. If any of them are incomplete or incorrect, your claim could be denied.
The VCF might also deny your claim if you failed to withdraw from a 9/11-related lawsuit or comply with the VCF’s request for additional information within the applicable time frame.
Critically, you only have 60 days from the date of your decision letter to compile your appeals materials and submit them to the VCF. All paperwork, including the Explanation of Appeal, the Pre-Hearing Questionnaire, and documentation to support your eligibility, must be submitted in a single Appeal Package.
Attend a VCF Appeal Hearing
After you submit your appeal, the VCF will decide whether your request is valid. You will then be scheduled to appear at an appeal hearing. Notably, the VCF transitioned to virtual hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic. While eligibility appeal hearings are conducted via video conference, compensation appeals are heard by phone. VCF appeal hearings are no longer held in person.
VCF appeal hearings are relatively informal and typically last no longer than an hour. Rather than have your case heard by a judge, appeal hearings are conducted by a hearing officer. While there is no jury, you are still permitted to present testimony, bring witnesses, and raise the evidence outlined in your Appeal Package. Following the hearing, you will be notified of the VCF’s decision on your appeal by mail.
Contact an Experienced 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney
Appealing a VCF claim denial can be complex and overwhelming. An experienced 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorney can evaluate your denial and determine whether you have viable grounds to appeal. However, it’s imperative that you don’t hesitate — the clock on your appeal starts ticking once 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 9/11 VCF claims for over a decade. For a free consultation, contact us today.