Thursday, January 17, 2002 2:39 PM
Comments on the Interim Final Reprt
A COMPROMISE POSITION ON COMPENSATION PAYMENTS
TO VICTIMS OF THE SEPTEMBER 11TH TERRORIST ATTACK.
It is time for the Special Master, Mr. Kenneth Feinberg, to realize that he
seriously erred in presenting his first proposals for compensation to
victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Both his methodology and
the resultant payments from the Victims Compensation Fund have been severely
criticized from a number of quarters. Mr. Feinberg, in a statement shortly
after the release of the Interim Final Report recognized the depth of
controversy and attempted to reverse several positions taken in the report.
In any compromise both sides must be willing to enter into negotiations with
the view of getting less that they would like. The main purpose of the law
passed by Congress which created the September 11th Victim's Compensation
Fund was to protect the airlines and other organizations from law suits
which could seriously cripple them financially. Thus the law proposed what
appeared on first reading to be a quick, fair and compassionate solution for
the families of the victims. In return, the victims would avoid prolonged
legal battles that might produce much greater financial rewards for them.
It is abundantly clear that the families of victims do not view the Interim
Final Report as either being fair or generous. For many, if not most, there
is no compensation payable, and hence the lengthy legal battles through the
court system is an obviously better solution. There is no benefit to being
told in 120 days that you will receive nothing; better to try you luck in
court and keep hope alive.
It is therefore clear that the Rules on providing compensation must be
immediately amended if Congress and the Administration expect families to
sign on to its provisions. I therefore respectfully suggest the following
amendments to the Interim Final Report as providing some likelihood that
this might be accomplished.
1. The non-economic losses must be increased to $500,000 and be removed (as
the law allows) from diminishment by offsets. This would guarantee all
families this amount, and would give truth to Mr. Feinberg's statement that
"families would receive between $500,000 and $3,000,000 from the Fund."
Families of victims who feel that this amount is inadequate could still
resort to the appeal process provided by the rules of the Fund.
2. The salary calculation used to establish lifetime earnings should reflect
the BETTER of the salary earned at the time up death, or the AVERAGE of the
victim's best three consecutive salary years. This would reflect the
reality of the earning potential of many of the victims who were in very
upwardly mobile positions. It would help address the criticism that the
methodology used to determine lifetime earnings is seriously flawed. At the
same time, the Special Master must address the question of salaries above
the 98th percentile by determining what proportion of victims was actually
in this category. Indeed, it might be necessary to consider a high
3. Insurance benefits received from policies PAID FOR by the employee should
be removed from offset calculations. The same should apply to other
employee paid benefits including pensions and retirement plans, for the
Interim Report is penalizing victims who showed family responsibility in the
conduct of their fiscal affairs. By contrast, it rewards those who followed
a less prudent fiscal course, and this reward is made at government expense.
Congress, and the Executive Branch, through the rules formulated by the
Special Master, Kenneth Feinberg, must make every effort to make good on it
promise to honor the victims of this cruel attack on America by showing
compassion and generosity to the families of the victims. It is adamant
that the rules proposed in the Interim Final Report of the Special Master be
modified to allow this to happen.
Otterburn Park, Quebec