Thursday, January 17, 2002 2:39 PM
Comments on the Interim Final Reprt


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 percentile.

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.

Individual Comment
Otterburn Park, Quebec

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