On the eve of the sixteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (“9/11 VCF”) Special Master, Rupa Bhattacharyya, announced that the 9/11 VCF has paid $3,007,475,734.85 to victims of 9/11 toxins exposure. Since the passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2010, 14,009 victims, and families of victims, have received compensation decisions from the 9/11 VCF. The average dollar value of all awards is $223,205.86. The average dollar value of personal injury awards is $217,852.91. The average dollar value of claims for deceased individuals is $744,317.05. The largest award to date totaled $4,133,466.00.
The $3 billion dollar milestone is significant in that it is greater than the initial 9/11 VCF funding: The Zadroga Act initially funded the 9/11 VCF with $2.8 billion dollars, which included operating costs. (As an illustration of operating costs, the Office of the Inspector General recently revealed that between 2011-2016, the 9/11 VCF entered into legal service contracts valued at over $3.6 million dollars.) Additionally, the Zadroga Act initially provided that the 9/11 VCF would expire on October 1, 2015.
Thanks to the lobbying efforts of local and national elected officials, labor unions, 9/11 responders and survivors, and lobbyists including Pitta & Baione LLP affiliate Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno LLC, the Zadroga Act was reauthorized in 2015. The reauthorized Zadroga Act provided an additional $4.6 billion in funding for the 9/11 VCF.
Pitta & Baione LLP is dedicated to informing the public about the eligibility requirements of the 9/11 VCF. The most common misconception is that compensation is limited to responders. However, this is false. Compensation may be available to individuals suffering from, or who have suffered from, a physical condition, and were present between 9/11/01 and 5/30/02:
- At Ground Zero
- In Lower Manhattan, south of Canal Street in any capacity (working, living, attending school, etc.)
- At the Staten Island Fresh Kills Landfill
- In any area related to, or along, debris removal routes (piers, barges, transfer stations, etc.)
- In areas where WTC-contaminated vehicles or equipment were cleaned or rehabilitated
- At the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City or temporary morgues.
It is estimated that over 500,000 people were exposed to 9/11 toxins on and after the terrorist attacks. It is also estimated that around 20% of those exposed were 9/11 responders. This means that around 400,000 people were exposed to 9/11 toxins in a capacity other than being a responder. As an illustration of the apparent lack of awareness among 9/11 survivors: So far, 21,652 responders have submitted 9/11 VCF claims. In contrast, only 915 residents and 5,731 area workers have submitted 9/11 VCF claims. It should also be noted that, in the WTC Health Program, the cancer rate among 9/11 survivors is actually 22% higher than that of 9/11 responders.
In announcing the $3 billion dollar milestone, 9/11 VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya released the following statement.
Each year, as the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks approaches, the country is reminded of the unprecedented losses suffered. At the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (“VCF”), we acknowledge the important milestones reached in providing support to victims and families, but we are especially aware of the lives that continue to be impacted. The anniversary is a time for us to reaffirm our commitment to the important work that still lies ahead, and to maintain strong and steady progress as we seek to award compensation.
The program statistics report we are issuing today details the enormous strides the VCF has made since its reopening in 2011. As of August 31, 2017, the VCF has rendered over 14,000 compensation determinations, including initial awards on new claims, and revised awards on claims with amendments or appeals. These determinations total over $3 billion awarded to VCF claimants, which exceeds the original $2.775 billion authorized by Congress when the VCF reopened in 2011. In all, the VCF has compensated claims from more than 11,500 responders to the attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon, and at the Shanksville site, as well as more than 2,400 others who lived, worked, or traveled through areas of lower Manhattan and were exposed to debris and toxins generated by the attacks and their aftermath.
I am keenly aware that each and every one of these claims represents a life forever-changed. I am also aware of the tremendous need for compensation that exists in the 9/11 community. We are committed to making improvements wherever possible in order to process claims as quickly and efficiently as possible, without compromising accuracy, thoroughness, or fairness. I am pleased to report that we continue to make progress in rendering decisions on the oldest claims, and are now issuing awards on claims filed in the later part of 2015. Our efforts to accelerate the speed of claims processing are ongoing and an absolute priority.
We are also increasing our efforts to identify those who may be eligible for compensation but are not aware of the VCF, and we are working with partners in the community to extend our reach. Information regarding the VCF was recently mailed to the enrolled membership of the World Trade Center Health Program, and we are looking forward to participating in several events this week to increase awareness of and answer questions regarding the VCF. These include a Facebook Live Event hosted by 9/11 Health Watch, meetings of the WTC Health Program Responder and Survivor Steering Committees, and the Voices of 9/11 16th Annual Day of Remembrance Information Forum.
The anniversary is always a time to look back and commemorate the lives lost or forever changed by 9/11. It is also a time to look forward and assure the members of the 9/11 community that they are not forgotten, and that as a nation, we are committed to providing help to those who need it. I’m honored to be in a position to so directly serve this community, and, along with my dedicated and talented team, remain deeply committed to ongoing progress.
For more information about the 9/11 VCF, contact Pitta & Baione LLP at 844-WTC-COMP or firstname.lastname@example.org.