The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund has strict proof of presence requirements that responders and survivors must provide. However, as the years go by, many who have been diagnosed with illnesses linked to the toxic dust cloud have found it more difficult to satisfy the VCF’s presence criteria. It’s important to understand what documentation is needed to satisfy proof of presence and what options you might have in the event your claim is denied.
What Are the VCF’s Presence Requirements?
In order to be eligible to receive an award, the VCF requires responders and survivors to satisfy certain presence criteria. This means they must have been present within the NYC Exposure Zone in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks. The Zadroga Act defines this timeframe as between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002. The geographic location in which a responder or survivor must have been present includes Ground Zero, the debris routes, bus depots, barges, the Fresh Kills landfill, and any part of Lower Manhattan south of Canal Street.
How Can I Prove Presence in the NYC Exposure Zone?
The VCF requires that responders and survivors submit specific documentation to prove presence in the NYC Exposure Zone during the statutory time frame. Documentation that can help prove presence includes sworn witness statements, employer or third-party verification, a personal statement, witness presence statements, rental agreements, mortgage receipts, and employment records.
Failure to submit the documentation necessary to establish presence can result in your claim being denied by the VCF. If it is rejected, you may receive a “Missing Information Letter.” This can give you an opportunity to submit further documentation. However, if the only proof you are able to submit in support of your presence is a witness presence statement, the VCF may deny your claim if the details provided are insufficient.
Filing an Appeal for Insufficient Proof of Presence
If the VCF denied your claim based on insufficient proof of presence, you might be able to file an appeal. Importantly, an Appeal Request Form must be submitted within 30 days of receiving notice of the VCF’s decision. If you are entitled to file an appeal, this form would have been included with the decision letter. Once you have submitted your request, an Appeal Package must be uploaded or mailed within 60 days from the date specified in the decision letter.
The documents that must be included in an Appeal Package are as follows:
- Any documents relevant to the appeal
- The Pre-Hearing Questionnaire enclosed with your decision letter
- A separate list of papers that compile your appeal
- The Explanation of Appeal
If the VCF schedules a hearing after reviewing your appeal, you will be provided with a date and time at which to appear. Notably, the VCF has transitioned to hear eligibility appeals virtually by Zoom – In-person hearings are no longer conducted by the VCF.
Unlike in litigation in the courtroom, VCF eligibility hearings are not adversarial. The Special Master or a Hearing Officer will listen to your testimony and that of any witnesses, as well as evaluate the evidence in your Appeal Package. The VCF will notify you by mail regarding its determination.
Contact an Experienced New York City 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney
If you are a responder or survivor who developed a 9/11-related health condition, you may be able to recover compensation from the VCF. However, the VCF’s regulations can be overwhelming to navigate and the presence requirements can be confusing to understand. It’s essential to have an experienced 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorney to help guide you through the process and ensure you provide the necessary documentation to establish your eligibility.
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.