Today, in a conference call with Pitta & Baione LLP, September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Special Master Rupa Bhattacharrya announced tremendous cuts in compensation to 9/11 victims and their families: 50-70% across-the-board. This news shakes the 9/11 community to its core, and completely undermines the intention of the Fund.
While the 9/11-cancer and death rates skyrocket, compensation now plummets. The 9/11-cancer rate has risen nearly 4000% in 5 years and the number of 9/11 VCF wrongful death claims has increased 109% in just one year. This rapidly rising number of 9/11 victims has caused a funding shortage which triggered these severe cuts.
In October 2018, the Special Master announced proposed policy changes which would impact only those claims submitted after January 31, 2019. In her own words, the rising number of claims has forced her to break that promise with the announcement of a 50% reduction in compensation for all claims submitted on or before February 1, 2019 who receive a compensation determination on or after February 25, 2019; and 70% reduction in compensation for all claims submitted on or after February 2, 2019. In general, if you receive a compensation determination letter prior to February 25, 2019, the award will not be reduced.
The Special Master issued the following apology: “In making this decision, I was acutely aware of the fact that I had previously announced that reductions aimed at addressing any insufficiency of funds would be applied only to claims filed after the date of announcement, thus sparing any pending claim…I sincerely apologize to the 9/11 community for making a promise I could not keep.”
While there are other new policies which generally raise burdens of proving damages, decrease or eliminate certain presumptions in calculating compensation, and increase certain collateral offsets, among others, the most damaging rules are the above mentioned overall reductions in compensation.
It is with a heavy heart we announce this news. However, we remain committed to the unwavering and unflinching advocacy that our clients have come to know and love us for. We will continue to fight to maximize our clients’ rights under the Fund, to hold all parties accountable, and to support the pending Never Forget the Heroes Act. We encourage everyone to educate themselves about the Never Forget the Heroes Act and to contact your local elected officials about getting it passed. This legislation may be the only path forward to potentially undo this compensation crisis, and it is, in fact, the only way to extend the Fund beyond its current deadline of December 18, 2020.
Click here to find out if your Congressional Representative is planning to support 9/11 responders and survivors with the Never Forget the Heroes Act. If they are, thank them, if not ask them to join.