Bay Ridge

Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund still at work

On 16th anniversary of WTC attack, program seeks 1st responders

September 8, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Jacqui Lopez (at podium), whose husband, Luis Lopez died as a result of working on the recovery effort at the World Trade Center site, speaks about the importance of renewing the Det. James Zadroga Act at a press conference held by U.S. Reps. Dan Donovan and Peter King in Bay Ridge in 2015. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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In the days leading up to the 16th anniversary of the World Trade Center terror attack, the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), the program established by the federal government to provide financial assistance to victims and first responders, released a report detailing the payments it has made over the years.

VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya said the program has made great strides in recent years speeding up the claims process so that recipients can receive funds faster.

“I am keenly aware that each and every one of these claims represents a life forever changed,” Bhattacharyya said in a statement. “I am also aware of the tremendous need for compensation that exists in the 9/11 community. We are committed to making improvements wherever possible in order to process claims as quickly and efficiently as possible, without compromising accuracy, thoroughness, or fairness.”

As of Aug. 31, VCF has rendered more than 14,000 compensation determinations, including initial awards on new claims, and has revised awards on claims with amendments or appeals.

The determinations total more than $3 billion awarded to VCF claimants, a figure that exceeds the original $2.775 billion authorized by Congress when the VCF was reopened in 2011.

VCF has compensated claims from more than 11,500 responders to the attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon and at the Shanksville site, as well as more than 2,400 people who lived, worked or traveled through lower Manhattan and suffered health conditions as a result of exposure to debris and toxins generated by the attack and its aftermath.

VCF was created to provide compensation for any individual who suffered physical harm as a result of the terrorist-related airplane crashes of Sept. 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the aftermath of those crashes.

The original VCF operated from 2001 to 2004. On Jan. 2, 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Title II of the Zadroga Act reactivated the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund.

The reactivated VCF opened in October 2011 and was authorized to operate for a period of five years, ending in October 2016. On Dec. 18, 2015, Obama signed into law a bill reauthorizing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. This included the reauthorization of the VCF. The new law extended the VCF for five years, allowing individuals to submit their claims until Dec. 18, 2020.

The VCF is also stepping up its efforts to find people who may be eligible for compensation because they suffer physical health effects as a result of their exposure but are not aware of the program, according to officials.

For example, information about VCF was mailed to the membership of the World Trade Center Health Program. In addition, VCF participated in several events to answer questions about the program, including a Facebook Live event, meetings of the WTC Health Program Responder and Survivor Steering Committees and a town hall hosted by the group United We Stand of New York.

“The anniversary is always a time to look back and commemorate the lives lost or forever changed by 9/11.  It is also a time to look forward and assure the members of the 9/11 community that they are not forgotten, and that as a nation, we are committed to providing help to those who need it,” Bhattacharyya said

For information about how to file a claim, visit the “How to File a Claim” page on the VCF’s website at vcf.gov. Information is also available by calling VCF’s Helpline at 1-855-885-1555.

 


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