The Civil Division administers three compensation programs, the first created by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, the second created by the 1990’s Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, and the third created by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010.
Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
The VICP is a no-fault alternative to the traditional civil litigation that provides compensation in rare instances when injuries occur after covered vaccines. The Program serves an important public health purpose of ensuring an adequate supply of vaccines and also provides an accessible and less adversarial forum for individuals who have been injured by vaccinations. Individuals who believe they have been injured by a covered vaccine can file a claim against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims seeking compensation from the Vaccine Trust Fund. The Department of Justice represents HHS, working to ensure that fair compensation is awarded in every case meeting the eligibility criteria. Over the past 30 years, the VICP has succeeded in providing a less adversarial, less expensive, and less time-consuming recovery system than the traditional tort system that governs medical malpractice, personal injury, and product liability cases. More than 6,000 people have received in excess of $3.9 billion (combined) since the program’s inception in 1988.
Radiation Exposure Compensation Program
The United States conducted nearly 200 atmospheric nuclear weapons development tests from 1945 t0 1962. Essential to the nation’s nuclear weapons development was uranium mining and processing, which was carried out by tens of thousands of workers. Following the tests’ cessation in 1962 many of these workers filed class action lawsuits alleging exposure to known radiation hazards. These suits were dismissed by the appellate courts. Congress responded by devising a program allowing partial restitution to individuals who developed serious illnesses after exposure to radiation released during the atmospheric nuclear tests or after employment in the uranium industry: the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was passed on October 5, 1990. The Act’s scope of coverage was broadened in 2000. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Program Office, housed within the Torts Branch's Constitutional & Specialized Tort Litigation Section (CSTL),oversees this program.
September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
On January 2, 2011, President Obama signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-347) (Zadroga Act). Title II of the Zadroga Act reactivates the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 that operated from 2001-2003 and requires a Special Master, appointed by the Attorney General, to provide compensation for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes. The Zadroga Act expands the pool of applicants eligible for the Fund to include individuals who experienced injuries associated with the attacks or subsequent debris removal. On May 18, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Sheila L. Birnbaum will head the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund program.