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September 11th Victim Comensation Fund

September 11th Victim Comensation Fund Frequently Asked Questions

I.       General Issues



What is the new VCF?

Who will be eligible for the new VCF?

When will the VCF open for claims?

Does it cost anything to file a claim?

How long will claimants have to submit their claims?

How are VCF awards and administrative costs funded?

How long will the World Trade Center Health Program last?

A.      Eligibility



What are the eligibility requirements for participation in the new VCF?  Are the eligibility requirements the same as during the VCF’s first iteration, or have they changed?

The Zadroga Act and the final rules state that to be eligible, a claimant must have been present at a “9/11 crash site” on September 11th or during its immediate aftermath. What are the crash sites?

I was not present at a 9/11 crash site, as those areas are defined in the rules, but I believe my health condition was caused by September 11th.  Will I be eligible for the fund?

If I applied to the VCF during its first iteration and my claim was denied, can I apply again now?

If I applied to the VCF during its first iteration and my claim was granted, can I apply again now?

If I did not experience any physical injury or death as a result of September 11th, but I experienced emotional or mental harms as a result of the events, am I eligible for the VCF?

Do I have to live in New York to participate in the VCF?

If I do not live in New York, how can I participate in the VCF?

If I was not a uniformed responder, am I eligible for the VCF?

Are foreign nationals eligible for the VCF?

B.      The Process / Determination of Awards



What kind of medical exam will be required for the VCF?

If I have not yet suffered economic harms, but fear that I may suffer economic harms in the future, should I submit a claim to the VCF now?

If I have not yet suffered economic harms, but my condition is expected to worsen, am I eligible for the VCF?

If I am found eligible for the VCF, what treatments are covered?

C.     Attorney-Client Issues



Do I need an attorney to participate in the VCF?

If I choose to use an attorney, how will the attorney be paid?

If I was a plaintiff in another September 11th lawsuit, and my attorney signed a release before the bill was enacted and I opt in to that settlement, am I eligible for the VCF?

Where can I find out information about the settlements achieved in New York courts?

Will settlements in civil suits regarding injuries related to September 11th affect my award in the VCF?

D.     Legal Issues



Is my VCF award taxable?

Can my VCF award be seized in a bankruptcy proceeding?

If I am eligible for the VCF, am I also eligible for veterans benefits?

II.      Covered Conditions



A.      General



If I received payment in the VCF’s first iteration, and I am suffering from a new condition that was not known or diagnosed at that time, am I eligible to submit a claim to the VCF now?

How will the VCF determine if a condition was a result of September 11th?

If I have a condition that was a result of September 11th but is not a common condition, am I eligible for the VCF?

If I have suffered a physical injury as a result of September 11th but am still able to work, am I eligible for the VCF?

I do not see my injury on the list of eligible injuries in the draft regulations.  How will I know if my injury is covered or might be covered in the future?

Will side effects from taking September 11th-related medications be covered by the VCF?

B.      Cancer



Will cancer be covered by the VCF?

C.     PTSD and Emotional Harm


Will PTSD or emotional injuries be covered by the VCF?

D.     Multiple Conditions



If I have multiple conditions as a result of September 11th, will the VCF cover all of them?

III.         Funds and Awards



When will I receive my full award?

Will there be a procedure for receiving early payments, or “advance benefits,” as they were known in the first VCF?

What is economic loss?

What is non-economic loss?

Will I be able to know approximately how much my award will be before I decide whether to submit a claim?

If my career is cut short as a result of a condition that is compensable under the VCF will my award take into account lost wages?

If my career is cut short as a result of a condition that is compensable under the VCF will my award take into account decreased pension benefits as a result of the shorter career?

Will the amount of awards be the same as in the VCF’s first iteration, or will they be reduced?

What is a collateral source?  How will the Special Master determine the amount of my collateral source benefits?

Are charitable gifts offset? Will a benefit from a charity managed by a government agency be considered as a collateral offset?

General Issues


What is the new VCF?


On January 2, 2011, President Obama signed the Zadroga Act, which reopens the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001. The Zadroga Act expanded the scope of the original VCF to enable more individuals who suffered physical injury or death as a result of the September 11th attacks to obtain compensation from the program. Like the initial VCF, the Act provides that an individual who elects compensation from the VCF waives his or her rights to pursue litigation to seek damages for the physical injury or death resulting from the September 11th attacks.

The new VCF will be administered by Special Master Sheila Birnbaum, who has been appointed by the Attorney General of the United States.

The VCF will accept claims for five years and will complete the payment of claims during 2016-17. It is important that you understand the filing rules, because you must submit your claim within two years of the date you know of the physical injury or death resulting from the attacks (or, if you already know of the physical injury or death in question, by October 3, 2013).

Congress has appropriated a fixed sum of money for the VCF. This fixed sum is $2.775 billion. Congress has also determined that $875 million of that total amount may be paid out in the first five years of the VCF program. The remainder may be paid in the sixth year.

The limitations on funding for the VCF means that in the first five years of the program, claimants will receive only a portion of the compensation allowed under the rules of the VCF. Depending on the number and type of claims, and in order to ensure that all eligible claimants receive an award, the Zadroga Act’s cap on funding means that it is possible that claimants’ awards will be pro-rated.

The VCF is a compensation program. The Zadroga Act also created the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, which is operated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The WTC Health Program provides medical treatment and monitoring for WTC-related health conditions. 

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Who will be eligible for the new VCF?


The Zadroga Act provides that individuals are eligible if they were present at the September 11th crash sites at the time of the crashes or between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002, and suffered physical harm as a direct result of the crashes or debris removal.  Personal representatives of those who died are also eligible.

The VCF’s final regulations define eligible physical harm to mean a physical injury to the body that was treated by a medical professional within a reasonable time from the date of discovering the harm.  In addition, the physical injury must be verified by or at the direction of the medical professional who provided contemporaneous medical care.

In order to be covered by the VCF, your physical condition must have been a result of September 11th.  To help make these determinations, the Special Master will identify conditions that are presumptively covered by the VCF.  The final regulations provide that initially, the presumptively covered conditions will consist of physical injuries that are determined to be World Trade Center (WTC)-related health conditions by the WTC Health Program that is operated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.  The WTC Health Program provides medical treatment and monitoring for WTC-related health conditions. 

Initially, those presumptively covered conditions include the following: 

Aerodigestive Disorders

  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Chronic Respiratory Disorder – fumes / vapors
  • Asthma
  • Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS)
  • WTC-exacerbated Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Chronic cough syndrome
  • Upper airway hyperreactivity
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis
  • Chronic nasopharyngitis
  • Chronic laryngitis
  • Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD)
  • Sleep apnea exacerbated by or related to the above conditions. 

Musculoskeletal Disorders

  • Low back pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
  • Certain other musculoskeletal disorders for WTC responders who received treatment for a WTC-related musculoskeletal disorder that meets certain criteria.
Claimants who have a presumptively covered condition that was caused as a result of September 11th and are otherwise eligible may receive compensation from the VCF for certain losses.


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When will the VCF open for claims?

The VCF is currently in the process of designing claims forms and building the infrastructure that is necessary for a claims process.  The VCF is expected to open and begin receiving claims after the final rule becomes effective on October 3, 2011.

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Does it cost anything to file a claim?

No.

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How long will claimants have to submit their claims?

In general, claimants will have two years to submit a claim.  The Zadroga Act provides that a person who knows of physical harm resulting from the September 11th attacks as of the date the regulations are published must file by October 3, 2013.  A person who subsequently learns of physical harm must file the claim within two years of the date you learn or should reasonably have known that you suffered a physical injury as a result of the attacks.

The Zadroga Act authorizes the VCF to receive claims for five years after it opens in 2011.  Final payments will be made in 2016-17.

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How are VCF awards and administrative costs funded?

The VCF is a government program, funded by taxpayers.  Congress appropriated $2.775 billion for the VCF, to cover both awards made to claimants and administrative costs.  Because every dollar spent on administrative costs is a dollar that cannot be paid to claimants, the VCF will provide a streamlined, efficient administrative process.

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How long will the World Trade Center Health Program last?

Congress has funded the health program for at least the next five years, through 2016. 

For further questions about the World Trade Center Health Program, please contact the program by phone at 1-888-WTC-HP4U (1-888-982-4748), or on the web at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/wtc.

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Eligibility

What are the eligibility requirements for participation in the new VCF?  Are the eligibility requirements the same as during the VCF’s first iteration, or have they changed?

The Zadroga Act changed the eligibility requirements to authorize claims from persons who were present at the crash sites between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002.  In addition, the Act changed the eligibility criteria to include claims from persons who suffered physical harm or death as a result of the crashes or as a result of debris removal.

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The Zadroga Act and the final rules state that to be eligible, a claimant must have been present at a “9/11 crash site” on September 11th or during its immediate aftermath. What are the crash sites?


Under the Zadroga Act, the crash sites include the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon site, the Shanksville site, debris removal routes such as barges and Fresh Kills, and any area that is sufficiently close to the crashes that the Special Master determines to have presented a demonstrable risk of physical harm.

Under the final rules, this area includes the area in Manhattan south of the line that runs along runs along Canal Street from the Hudson River to the intersection of Canal Street and East Broadway, north on East Broadway to Clinton Street, and east on Clinton Street to the East River.


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I was not present at a 9/11 crash site, as those areas are defined in the rules, but I believe my health condition was caused by September 11th.  Will I be eligible for the fund?

You may still be eligible.  The final rules permit the Special Master to find that there were other areas in which there was a demonstrable risk of physical harm resulting from the impact of the aircraft or any subsequent fire, explosions, or building collapses.  

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If I applied to the VCF during its first iteration and my claim was denied, can I apply again now?


Individuals who submitted claims in the VCF’s first iteration may amend and re submit their claims in certain circumstances:

  • The individual suffered a new injury that is eligible under the new VCF;
  • The individual’s prior eligible condition has substantially worsened, resulting in damages or loss that was not previously compensated;
  • The individual was not previously eligible for the VCF, but is now eligible as a result of changes contained in the Zadroga Act;
  • The individual’s previous claim was based on a condition that was not previously covered by the VCF, but that is now covered.

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If I applied to the VCF during its first iteration and my claim was granted, can I apply again now?


Individuals who submitted claims in the VCF’s first iteration may amend their claims in certain circumstances:

  • The individual suffered a new injury that is eligible under the new VCF;
  • The individual’s eligible condition has substantially worsened, resulting in damages or loss that was not previously compensated;
  • The individual was not previously eligible for the VCF, but is now eligible as a result of changes contained in the Zadroga Act;
  • The individual’s previous claim was based on a condition that was not previously covered by the VCF, but that is now covered.

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If I did not experience any physical injury or death as a result of September 11th, but I experienced emotional or mental harms as a result of the events, am I eligible for the VCF?

No.  When Congress first created the VCF in 2001, it directed that only claimants who have a “physical injury” can be eligible for the VCF, and Special Master Ken Feinberg interpreted that phrase to mean “a physical injury to the body,” thus excluding claims for psychological conditions. 
In the Zadroga Act, Congress did not change how the VCF treats psychological conditions.  As a result, the VCF is not able to accept claims solely for psychological conditions.

The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program does provide options for treatment of psychological conditions.  For information about whether you may be eligible for treatment for emotional or mental harms by the WTC Health Program, you may contact them by phone at 1-888-WTCHP4U (888-982-4748), or on the web at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/wtc.

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Do I have to live in New York to participate in the VCF?

No.  You do not have to live in New York to participate in the VCF. 

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If I do not live in New York, how can I participate in the VCF?

Claimants will be able to submit information to the VCF through the mail or over the internet.  If a claimant would like a hearing to appeal his or her award, the VCF will make every effort to accommodate long-distance hearings through video-conference or, where necessary telephone conferences.

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If I was not a uniformed responder, am I eligible for the VCF?

You do not have to be a uniformed responder to be eligible. Under the Zadroga Act, to receive a payment from the VCF, an individual must have been present at a September 11th crash site between the time of the crashes and May 30, 2002, and have suffered physical harm or death as a result of the September 11th air crashes or debris removal.

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Are foreign nationals eligible for the VCF?

Yes.  The Zadroga Act permits both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals who satisfy the VCF’s eligibility criteria to participate in the VCF.

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The Process / Determination of Awards

What kind of medical exam will be required for the VCF?


The type of medical exam required may vary depending on the claimant’s particular medical condition.  In some cases, the VCF may be able to accept medical examinations provided under the World Trade Center Health Program.  The VCF will publish more detailed guidelines once the claim forms are available.

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If I have not yet suffered economic harms, but fear that I may suffer economic harms in the future, should I submit a claim to the VCF now?

If you already know that you suffered physical harm as a result of September 11th, the Zadroga Act requires you to file with the VCF by October 3, 2013.  This requirement applies whether or not you have suffered economic harm as a result of your condition. 

We expect that the VCF will consider future expected loss based on the claimant’s condition consistent with the methodology applied in the first VCF.    Similarly, individuals whose conditions substantially worsen after they submit their claim may be able to amend their claims.  An individual whose condition has substantially worsened, resulting in damages or losses that were not previously compensated, may amend his or her claim. 

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If I have not yet suffered economic harms, but my condition is expected to worsen, am I eligible for the VCF?

If you already know that you suffered physical harm as a result of the September 11th attacks or subsequent debris removal, the Zadroga Act requires you to file with the VCF by October 3, 2013.  This requirement applies whether or not you have suffered economic harm as a result of your condition. 

We expect that the VCF will consider future expected loss based on the claimant’s condition consistent with the methodology applied in the first VCF.  Similarly, individuals whose conditions substantially worsen after they submit their claim may be able to amend their claims.  An individual whose condition has substantially worsened, resulting in damages or losses that were not previously compensated, may amend his or her claim. 

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If I am found eligible for the VCF, what treatments are covered?

The treatments that are covered for a particular claimant will depend on the nature and severity of the claimant’s condition.

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Attorney-Client Issues

Do I need an attorney to participate in the VCF?

No, you are not required to have an attorney.  You are free to consult with attorneys and you should make your own decision as to whether you wish to engage an attorney.  Some attorneys have indicated a willingness to provide some assistance on a pro bono basis.

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If I choose to use an attorney, how will the attorney be paid?

The VCF will not reimburse claimants for fees charged by their attorneys.  Such fees must be paid by the claimant.  The Zadroga Act also provides a limitation on how much an attorney may charge in connection with the VCF.  Under the Zadroga Act, attorneys may not charge any claimant more than 10% of the payment the claimant receives as a VCF award.

Attorneys who also charged their client a fee in connection with certain other September 11th-related litigation and settlement may only charge that client for representation before the VCF if the attorney’s total charge for both representations does not exceed 10% of the client’s total award in the other September 11th-related litigation.

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If I was a plaintiff in another September 11th lawsuit, and my attorney signed a release before the bill was enacted and I opt in to that settlement, am I eligible for the VCF?

The Zadroga Act states that if an individual tendered a release after the Zadroga Act was enacted on January 2, 2011, the individual is not eligible for the VCF.  The VCF will address the question of eligibility on a case-by-case basis.   If your attorney had authority to sign a release on your behalf and that release was signed and submitted to the defendant consistent with the terms of the settlement agreement between the claimant and the defendant prior to January 2, 2011, then the release will not bar the VCF claim.

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Where can I find out information about the settlements achieved in New York courts? 

The VCF cannot provide information about private settlements.  The VCF is a government program, established by Congress, and is separate from the lawsuits between individuals and the Port Authority, the Captive Insurer, and others.  Individuals with questions about the settlements should contact their lawyers.

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Will settlements in civil suits regarding injuries related to September 11th affect my award in the VCF?

Yes.  The Act provides that the amount of the award shall be reduced by the amount of collateral source compensation that the claimant has received or is entitled to receive as a result of the crashes.  Therefore, settlement payments from law suits will be deducted from any award.

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Legal Issues

Is my VCF award taxable?

The awards are not subject to Federal income tax.  In Revenue Ruling 2003-115, the Internal Revenue Service determined that periodic payments made to a claimant of the VCF pursuant to certain agreements are excluded from the gross income of the claimant.  Similarly, any payments to an estate or secondary beneficiary pursuant to such agreements are excluded from the gross income of the successor beneficiary.

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Can my VCF award be seized in a bankruptcy proceeding?

How an award is handled in bankruptcy will depend on the facts and circumstances of each individual’s situation.  An attorney may be able to provide more information based on each individual’s particular case.

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If I am eligible for the VCF, am I also eligible for veterans benefits?

The VCF is open to certain individuals who suffered personal injuries or death as a result of September 11th, regardless of whether they qualify as veterans.  Individuals with questions about their eligibility for veterans benefits should contact the Veterans Administration.  The Zadroga Act requires the Special Master to apply certain offsets to reduce the amount of compensation by the amount of collateral source compensation that the claimant has received or is entitled to receive as a result of the terrorist related aircraft crashes of September 11th.  Whether veterans benefits will be offset (so that the award is reduced) will depend on the specific benefit (i.e., what the benefit is for and whether it is subject to termination.)

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Covered Conditions

General

If I received payment in the VCF’s first iteration, and I am suffering from a new condition that was not known or diagnosed at that time, am I eligible to submit a claim to the VCF now? 

An individual who has suffered a new eligible injury, or whose condition has substantially worsened, resulting in damages or loss that was not previously compensated, may amend his or her claim. 

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How will the VCF determine if a condition was a result of September 11th? 

The VCF anticipates applying guidelines consistent with those adopted by the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program.  The WTC Health Program relies on the best available science to determine whether a particular condition is related to September 11th and provides a protocol for doctors to determine whether a particular individual’s condition is a WTC-related health condition
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If I have a condition that was a result of September 11th but is not a common condition, am I eligible for the VCF? 

Yes.  Individuals who suffered injuries as a result of September 11th and who meet the other eligibility requirements may submit a claim, even if their condition is not common across the population.

The VCF will post a list of conditions that have been determined to be related to September 11th.  Individuals with other conditions may also be eligible in extraordinary circumstances.

Initially, presumptively covered conditions include the following: 

Aerodigestive Disorders

  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Chronic Respiratory Disorder – fumes / vapors
  • Asthma
  • Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS)
  • WTC-exacerbated Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Chronic cough syndrome
  • Upper airway hyperreactivity
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis
  • Chronic nasopharyngitis
  • Chronic laryngitis
  • Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD)
  • Sleep apnea exacerbated by or related to the above conditions. 

Musculoskeletal Disorders

  • Low back pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
  • Certain other musculoskeletal disorders for WTC responders who received treatment for a WTC-related musculoskeletal disorder that meets certain criteria.

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If I have suffered a physical injury as a result of September 11th but am still able to work, am I eligible for the VCF?

Yes.  Individuals who are still able to work may receive compensation for other economic losses they may have suffered, such as medical expenses or for non-economic losses.

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I do not see my injury on the list of eligible injuries in the draft regulations.  How will I know if my injury is covered or might be covered in the future? 

In determining which conditions should be covered by the VCF, we intend to work closely with the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, which relies on the best available science to determine whether a particular condition is related to September 11th, and provides a protocol for doctors to determine whether a particular individual’s condition is a WTC-related health condition. 

The VCF will consider modifications to the list of presumptively covered conditions based on the determinations of the WTC Health Program.  The VCF will examine the science to determine whether additional conditions (including specific types of cancer) can be covered.  In addition, if an individual submits a claim for a condition that is not covered, and that condition later is added to the list, that individual may be eligible for payment.

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Will side effects from taking September 11th-related medications be covered by the VCF?

This may depend on the circumstances of your particular condition.  Although the rules for the VCF and the methodologies for determining awards are not yet final, the Zadroga Act provides for the VCF to base awards on the losses that each claimant has suffered as a direct result of September 11th.  Whether side effects arising out of medications taken to treat a covered condition are themselves directly related to September 11th will depend on the type of condition, the nature of the medication and the side effects, and other factors that may vary from individual to individual.

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Cancer

Will cancer be covered by the VCF?

The Zadroga Act did not include cancer in its initial list of conditions that are related to September 11th.  The final rules provide that the VCF will consider modifications to the list of presumptively covered conditions based on the determinations of the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program.  The VCF will examine the science to determine whether additional conditions (including specific types of cancer) can be covered.    The rules also state that if an individual submits a claim for a condition that is not covered, and that condition later is added to the list, that individual may be eligible for payment.

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PTSD and Emotional Harm

Will Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or emotional injuries be covered by the VCF?

 The Zadroga Act provides that only claimants who have a “physical injury” can be eligible for the VCF.  The regulations implementing the original VCF  interpreted that phrase to mean “a physical injury to the body,” thus excluding PTSD.

In the Zadroga Act, Congress did not change the language defining the eligible injuries and thus did not change the treatment of PTSD. The Zadroga Act treats PTSD as a mental or psychological condition, not a physical condition.  As a result, the VCF is not able to accept claims for PTSD.

For information about whether you may be eligible for treatment for mental or emotional harms by the World Trade Center Health Program, you may contact them directly by phone at 1-888-WTCHP4U (888-982-4748), or on the web at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/wtc.

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Multiple Conditions

If I have multiple conditions as a result of September 11th, will the VCF cover all of them?

As long as each condition was caused as a direct result of September 11th, the VCF will cover all of the conditions suffered by each eligible claimant.  However, the method for determining compensation will depend on proof of economic loss and a determination of non-economic loss.   The VCF will not provide multiple awards or awards for each condition. 

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Funds and Awards

When will I receive my full award?

Once a claim is fully submitted and is determined to be substantially complete, the VCF will issue a determination on eligibility and, if appropriate, on compensation.  You will have the right to appeal the determination.  Once you have accepted the award or completed the appeal process, the VCF will issue a payment within 20 days of that date. 

These initial payments will not contain a claimant’s full award.  In order to ensure that there is enough money to make a payment to every claimant who is entitled to receive a payment, the Zadroga Act provides that the first payment to each claimant should contain a portion of the full award.  As a result, the size of that first payment will depend on the amount of the claimant’s full award, as well as the total number of claimants and the amount of money available.  The Zadroga Act provides that most of the available money will be distributed at the end of the program, so in most cases these initial payments will be significantly less than the full award.  Only $875 million will be available to pay claims in the VCF’s first five years.

The Act provides that the remainder of the award may be paid five years after the VCF opens.  Claimants can thus expect to receive the rest of their payment in 2016-17.  Depending on the number and type of claims, and in order to ensure that all eligible claimants receive an award, the Zadroga Act’s cap on funding means that it is possible that those payments will be pro-rated.

Because initial payments will reflect only a portion of the total payment that a claimant can expect to receive, the claimant may wish to consult with a financial planner regarding how to make best use of the payments as they are received.

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Will there be a procedure for receiving early payments, or “advance benefits,” as they were known in the first VCF?

The Zadroga Act requires two rounds of payments:  an initial payment to each eligible claimant during the VCF’s first five years, after the claimant’s claim has been reviewed, followed by a second payment in the VCF’s sixth year.  Although the VCF will not offer early “advance” payments, if it becomes apparent that sufficient funding is available for additional payments before the sixth year, the final rule gives the Special Master discretion to make such additional payment.

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What is economic loss? 

Economic loss is an estimate of the compensation that would have been available to the family if the tragedy had not occurred.  This includes, for example, loss of earnings, medical expense loss, or business opportunity losses.

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What is non-economic loss? 

Non-economic losses include losses for physical and emotional pain or suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, and other non-pecuniary losses.

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Will I be able to know approximately how much my award will be before I decide whether to submit a claim?

The rules for computing economic loss are set forth in sections 104.41 through 104.47 of the rules.  The VCF intends to provide guidance and illustrations to enable a claimant to evaluate his or her potential award before deciding to submit a claim.    That information will be posted on the VCF website, at www.justice.gov/vcf.

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If my career is cut short as a result of a condition that is compensable under the VCF will my award take into account lost wages?

Yes.  The Zadroga Act provides for the VCF to take into account a claimant’s loss of earnings as a result of a physical injury caused by September 11th.

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If my career is cut short as a result of a condition that is compensable under the VCF will my award take into account decreased pension benefits as a result of the shorter career?

Yes.  The Zadroga Act provides for the VCF to take into account a claimant’s loss of earnings and other benefits related to employment.

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Will the amount of awards be the same as in the VCF’s first iteration, or will they be reduced?

The methodologies for computing economic loss will be based on those from the original VCF, with certain components of the economic loss computation updated.  The VCF will publish guidance on these computations.  The amount that each claimant will receive will depend on the amount of economic loss (if any), the non-economic loss, the offsets applied and the number of claimants and the aggregate amount of eligible awards.  In the Zadroga Act, Congress appropriated $2.775 billion to pay all of the awards, which means that the VCF cannot pay out any more than that amount.  This means that if the aggregate amount of awards and administrative costs exceeds this capped amount, the awards will have to be reduced.  The VCF cannot determine whether such a reduction will be necessary until it receives and evaluates all the claims. 

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What is a collateral source?  How will the Special Master determine the amount of my collateral source benefits?

The Act defines collateral sources to mean all such sources, including life insurance, pension funds, death benefit programs and payments by Federal, State, or local governments related to the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001, or debris removal, including under the World Trade Center Health Program and payments made pursuant to the settlement of a civil action for damages sustained as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001, or debris removal. The Act and regulations require the Special Master to reduce the total amount of compensation by the amount of the collateral source compensation the victim’s beneficiaries has received or is entitled to receive as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes.

During the previous iteration of the Fund, the Special Master exercised discretion in valuing the appropriate deductions for collateral offsets including by determining:

1. Whether the particular offsets fall within the definition of collateral sources;
2. Whether beneficiaries of the Fund are “entitled” to receive compensation from those collateral sources;
3. Whether the collateral source compensation is certain or can be computed with sufficient certainty to enable its deduction while ensuring that the beneficiaries receive the total compensation that is appropriate; and
4. The appropriate amount of the compensation that should be deducted, taking into account the time value of money and contributions made before death by the victim in the nature of investment or savings.
Under the final rules for this iteration of the Fund, the Special Master is permitted to exercise discretion in a similar fashion.

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Are charitable gifts offset? Will a benefit from a charity managed by a government agency be considered as a collateral offset?

The final rules adopt the approach taken previously, which is that benefits from charities disbursing private donations will not be treated as collateral source compensation, even if such charities were created or managed by government entities.

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