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What to Know About the 9/11 VCF Transition to Virtual Appeal Hearings

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The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund allows claimants to appeal an eligibility or compensation denial if they disagree with the VCF’s determination. However, moving forward, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund will no longer be holding in-person appeal hearings. Rather, the VCF has fully transitioned to hear compensation and eligibility appeals virtually — and it has no plans to return to in-person hearings in the future.

Tips to Help Ensure Your VCF Virtual Appeal Hearing Runs Smoothly

The VCF will now hold compensation appeal hearings by phone, unless there are compelling circumstances in your case. Eligibility hearings will be conducted by video. Regardless of the type of hearing for which you are scheduled, it is essential to keep the following tips in mind to help your hearing run smoothly:

  • Make sure the name in the Zoom room is your actual name — If you are using someone else’s device or an iPhone, your real name might not appear on Zoom. To ensure your privacy, the VCF will not allow you into the hearing until your identity is confirmed.  
  • Test the technology before your hearing — Depending on whether your appeal is being heard via Zoom or over the phone, make sure your device is working properly and you can be seen and/or heard clearly.  
  • Notify the VCF of any challenges you may have in a virtual setting — If you require any accommodations for your hearing, it is best to let the VCF know in advance. You must also inform the VCF whether you will need an interpreter for the hearing when you submit your appeal brief. The VCF will review your request and communicate the next steps with you.
  • Plan to be in a private location for the hearing — Although you may be joining the hearing in the middle of the workday, it’s important to ensure you can be in a private location free from distractions. Participating from your car or at your place of employment may not be ideal for protecting your privacy and ensuring your testimony is as effective as it could be.

In addition, it’s crucial to note that the VCF cannot accept new exhibits during a virtual hearing or share the documents you submitted in support of your appeal. Rather, you may use Zoom’s screen-sharing capability to show the other participants your exhibits and discuss them.

How to Prepare for a VCF Virtual Appeal Hearing

It’s crucial to be aware that you must submit the required documentation to the VCF in order for your appeal to be heard. Your appeal package must include the Pre-Hearing Questionnaire, your Explanation of Appeal, and any relevant documents to support your argument. Critically, the documents in support of your appeal must be submitted as one package and postmarked or uploaded by the due date indicated in your decision letter. If you provide new information that would cure the issue which would otherwise lead to denial, the VCF may convert your appeal to an amendment.

Significantly, if you are appealing a non-economic loss decision, your explanation of appeal must contain a roadmap and an argument concerning the medical record used to determine the severity of your 9/11-related health condition. If you submit hundreds of pages of medical records without providing a roadmap, the VCF will not review them.

Witness Participation in VCF Virtual Appeal Hearings  

All witnesses for your appeal should be identified and confirmed one week or more prior to the appeal hearing. If there are any changes to the witness’s schedule — or a new witness emerges between the time you submitted the appeal and the hearing date — a new Pre-Hearing Questionnaire should be uploaded within a week of the date of the hearing. 

All witnesses should be available to participate at a presence hearing, even if their affidavits have been submitted. Witness testimony can still be helpful to ensure you have the strongest possible argument.

Contact a New York City 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney

If you believe the VCF wrongfully denied your claim, an experienced 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorney can help ensure you obtain the compensation you deserve. The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. is dedicated to assisting responders and survivors navigate the appeals process to secure the award they are rightfully entitled. 

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. 

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