Today, September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (“VCF”) Special Master Sheila Birnbaum proudly announced that the VCF has reached a milestone in having paid over one billion dollars in 9/11 victim compensation since 2011. Special Master Birnbaum also noted that the VCF has authorized full compensation payments to 8,717 Group A claimants, which includes all Group A claimants who did not encounter issues preventing payment.
The VCF’s current focus is on resolving open issues preventing payment to the remaining Group A claimants because the reauthorized Zadroga Act requires the VCF to issue all Group A payments before funds can be used to pay Group B claims. As detailed in our earlier blog post, Group A is defined as claimants who received a loss determination letter (“LDL”) on or before December 17, 2015, and Group B is defined as claimants who received an LDL after that date.
After reauthorization of the Zadroga Act, the VCF projected to complete all payments to Group A claimants by the end of June 2016. In order to meet this deadline, and resolve outstanding Group A issues, the VCF will authorize payments on incomplete Group A claims, and the Department of Justice will place funds into an account from which the future payment can be made. This plan will allow the VCF to account for all Group A payments, and make funding available to pay Group B claimants.
Although the VCF’s main focus is currently on compensating Group A claimants, Special Master Birnbaum announced that their team has continued to review and process Group B claims as well. This includes issuing over 2,050 eligibility decisions since the beginning of January, completing preliminary loss calculations for almost 1,000 claims and continuing to send “Group B Complete” letters to claimants advising that their claim has been reviewed. The VCF projects to begin issuing Group B loss determination letters at the end of June and to authorize payments in mid-August, ahead of its original projection of September.
The reauthorization of the Zadroga Act also required the VCF to issue updated policies, procedures and regulations by June 15, 2016. Special Master Birnbaum announced that updated regulations have been drafted and are in the final stages of Government review. The regulations will be issued as an “Interim Final Rule” on June 15, subject to a thirty-day post-publication notice and comment period.
In addition to updating regulations, the VCF has updated their compensation claim form. Prior to drafting the updated form, the VCF sought input from Pitta Giblin & Baione LLP attorney Christopher J. Baione. The draft form is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, and the VCF projects to post a sample of the claim form on their website on June 15, and to update the online claim form by the last week of July.
Finally, the VCF is reviewing and updating all Frequently Asked Questions and other website content to reflect the effects of reauthorization. The VCF projects to post new information to their website on June 15, and finalize updates by late July.
Call Pitta & Baione LLP at 1-844-WTC-COMP to speak with an attorney about whether you may be eligible for benefits under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.