The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was established to help responders and survivors obtain the monetary recovery they deserve for their 9/11-related health conditions. Not only does the VCF compensate for economic losses incurred due to an illness linked to the toxic dust cloud, but non-economic loss may also be included in the award. However, it’s important to understand that a non-economic loss award is not based on the number of certifications from the WTC Health Program, but rather the severity of each condition. The VCF recently updated its resources to include additional guidance regarding non-economic loss to clarify the facts regarding these awards.
Understanding the VCF’s Baseline Award Amounts
Economic loss awards, also referred to as “pain and suffering,” are meant to compensate a responder or survivor for the impact their 9/11 condition had on their life and livelihood. These awards can range from $10,000 to $90,000 for non-cancer conditions and up to $250,000 for cancer conditions. In limited cases where a claimant suffers from multiple cancers, or cancer and multiple severe non-cancer conditions, the Special Master may exceed the statutory cap to award up to $340,000.
Importantly, the VCF has established “baseline” awards for certain conditions. The base values associated with these illnesses are awarded without the need to submit other medical documentation. As emphysema, interstitial lung disease, asbestosis, and sarcoidosis have been determined to be presumptively severe and debilitating, the VCF awards $90,000. This is the highest amount of non-economic loss permitted under the Zadroga Act for a non-cancer condition.
The baseline award for prostate cancer is $200,000. To establish the severity required for a higher award amount, a claimant does not need to seek additional certifications in connection with the condition unless necessary for treatment purposes. The VCF recognizes that complications from prostate cancer surgery are common, but usually temporary. While the VCF does not issue higher awards for temporary complications, it will evaluate a claimant’s medical records to determine whether permanent complications, metastasis, or recurrence warrants the $250,000 award.
Awards for Presumptively Less Severe and Debilitating Conditions
A variety of conditions that may be eligible for a VCF award are deemed “presumptively less severe and debilitating,” including asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic cough, COPD, GERD, sinusitis, obstructive sleep apnea, and others. These illnesses typically warrant a lower amount of compensation, unless medical documentation can establish their severity.
The VCF may increase an award for a presumptively less severe condition if medical evidence can show that the illness had a severe impact on the claimant. However, the VCF specifies that additional conditions should not be certified by the WTC Health Program to show severity for the purposes of obtaining a higher award — they should only be certified if necessary for treatment.
What Documents are Needed to Demonstrate the Severity of a Condition?
The VCF focuses on evaluating medical documentation from within three years of the claim submission date when determining the severity of a condition for the purpose of awarding non-economic loss. Specifically, the following types of documentation can help the VCF evaluate the severity of a condition:
- Recent medical documents that show the type and frequency of treatment, such as hospitalization, surgery, and emergency treatment records
- Recent test results, including X-rays, CT scans, sleep studies, and diagnostic procedures
- Recent documentation of medications and how often they are taken
- A document from the treating healthcare professional
- Reports from specialists who can explain how the condition limited activities
- Private insurance records that address the condition
- Records of state or federal agency proceedings that address the condition
The VCF will also consider a personal statement from the claimant that specifies how the eligible condition impacted their life, along with the corresponding medical records. The statement should include a timeline and details regarding the medical treatment for the condition.
Contact an Experienced New York City 9/11 VCF Attorney
If you are a 9/11 responder or survivor who developed a 9/11-related health condition, you may be eligible to receive compensation from the VCF. However, navigating the VCF’s rules and procedures can often be confusing. It is critical to have the representation of a knowledgeable VCF attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure that you receive the maximum award to which you are 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.