What is the 9/11 VCF Deadline?
The good news for the 9/11 community has continued into 2020. On July 29, 2019, President Trump signed into law the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act (“Zadroga Act”). The Zadroga Act made several changes to the structure and implementation of the VCF, including:
- Removing funding caps
- Extending the filing deadline to 2090
- Fully compensating prior claimants whose awards had been reduced due to lack of funding
- Removing the cap on non-economic damages (in certain situations)
Now, the Special Master has announced a policy change wherein all claims will be considered timely if registered by July 29, 2021. This date has special significance, as it is the two-year anniversary of the enactment of the Zadroga Act. This policy change includes all claims currently on file with the VCF, as well as prior claims that were denied for failure to timely register. Claims registered after July 29, 2021 may be considered timely filed depending upon the individual circumstances. Contact our 9/11 victims’ lawyers for immediate assistance with your claim.
This is major news for all Pitta & Baione LLP clients who have been denied for failing to register on time and for the 9/11 community at large. We have been advocating for extended registration deadlines for over three years, and the 9/11 VCF did the right thing. We applaud and thank Special Master Rupa Bhattacharryya for this new policy.
What Does This Mean for Claimants?
The new policy designates all claims timely if registered prior to July 29, 2021 and applies retroactively. This means that every claim currently on file is considered timely, including those that were previously denied for failure to timely register. According to the Special Master:
This change addresses concerns about claimants who missed prior deadlines because they did not know that the VCF existed or was open to them, did not know that their condition (or the death of their loved one) was related to 9/11 exposure, or did not realize that they were eligible to file a VCF claim or that the VCF would be in place beyond the previous 2020 end date.
For claimants, both current and prior, this means that:
- Every current claim is now considered to have been timely filed.
- Prior claims that were denied due to the applicant’s failure to timely register will now be considered timely.
- The new registration deadline for victims previously certified by the World Trade Center Health Program, or for families of deceased victims, is July 29, 2021.
- Claimants who previously received deadline denials will receive updated decisions.
- Pending appeals for deadline denials will be canceled as moot.
While the new policy is good news for all VCF claimants, it is especially good news for those who have previously received deadline denials, as it gives those claimants a second chance to obtain VCF benefits. If your VCF claim was previously denied due to missing your registration deadline, please contact our 9/11 victims’ lawyers for more information about the new deadline.
Find Out What to Do Next From Our 9/11 Victims’ Lawyers
As the Special Master only recently announced this change, its exact impacts on claimants remain to be seen. However, the Special Master did provide some guidance regarding the status of pending claims and those previously denied as untimely. How the change will affect individual claimants depends upon their circumstances:
- If you have already registered with the VCF: Your claim is considered timely regardless of when it was filed
- If you have not registered: You should register prior to July 29, 2021 in order to ensure that your claim is timely filed. Once you register, you preserve your right to file a claim with the VCF by October 1, 2090.
- If you submitted a claim that was denied as untimely: The VCF will identify claims that were previously denied only because they were found to be untimely filed and will issue revised determinations on those claims. For claims denied because of timelines only, you do not need to take any action. For claims that were denied due to timeliness and other grounds, you will need to amend your claim to address the other grounds.
- If you wait to register until after July 29, 2021: Whether a claim will be timely after July 29, 2021 will be determined according to the individual circumstances of the claim. As of the date of publication, it is unclear whether the VCF will implement its pre-Zadroga Act registration deadline scheme or implement a new scheme.
Claimants should note that the new registration deadline applies to both personal injury claims and deceased claims.
How to Register and File a Claim with the VCF
The two main steps to filing a claim with the VCF are registration and claim filing, each of which has a different deadline.
To be eligible to file a claim, the claimant must first register with the VCF by the applicable deadline. While registering with the VCF is required to submit a claim, it does not obligate the registrant to do so, nor does it waive any of the registrant’s legal rights. In the past, registration deadlines were different for every applicant depending upon his or her individual circumstances but generally were limited to two years. The two-year deadline for registration for any applicant was the earlier of (1) the date of the letter from the WTC Health Program certifying the applicant’s injury or condition for treatment, or (2) the date on which any other government entity determined that the applicant’s injury or condition was 9/11-related.
In light of the Special Master’s recent announcement, the registration deadline for all claimants is July 29, 2021 as of the date of publication. The process of registering online is fairly straightforward — the applicant creates an account in the VCF’s claim system and provides the VCF with information regarding the victim, the claimant, the claimant’s attorney, and an alternate contact. The claimant then submits his or her registration and the VCF will confirm that the registration is successful. From there, the claimant can then either begin a claim or return at a later date to begin a claim. Please contact our knowledgeable 9/11 victims’ lawyers for more information about registering with the VCF.
Filing a claim with the VCF is considerably more complex than registering, although claimants may also complete the claim filing process online. Generally, a complete VCF claim requires the following documents:
- A completed claim form
- A claim form signature page
- An authorization for release of medical records
- All necessary supporting documentation
- Social Security Administration (SSA) Consent Form
The VCF requires extensive supporting documentation to verify that the claimant is eligible to receive VCF benefits. Some of this documentation includes:
- Proof of presence at a 9/11-related site or in the NYC Exposure Zone. This can include a sworn employer verification form, proof of residence, school or day care records, contemporaneous documents that show the victim’s location, or sworn and notarized affidavits from individuals who can attest to the victim’s presence.
- Documentation of physical injury or condition. This documentation must be provided by showing that the claimant’s physical injury or condition has been certified for treatment under the WTC Health Program. If one or more of the claimant’s injuries is not certified by the WTC Health Program, the claimant must seek and obtain certification. The VCF will evaluate the claimant’s eligibility through the private physician process only in very limited circumstances.
- Documentation of non-economic losses. This can include medical documents showing the severity of the claimant’s conditions and impact statements describing the effect of the injury or condition on the claimant’s life.
- Documentation of loss of earnings. The claimant may document loss of earnings by authorizing the SSA to release his or her earnings history since 1998 and any information about benefits the claimant received from the SSA.
In some cases, the claimant may also be required to provide documentation concerning prior 9/11-related lawsuits, replacement services, and collateral source payments if any of those issues are present. Once the VCF receives a complete claim, it will then review it for eligibility and, if the claimant is found to be eligible, for compensation. In accordance with the Zadroga Act, the deadline to submit a claim (along with all supporting documentation) is October 1, 2090.
Please Contact Our 9/11 Victims’ Lawyers If You Previously Received a Deadline Denial
The Special Master’s new policy provides claimants who were previously denied for missing their filing deadline a second chance to obtain benefits from the VCF. If you previously received a deadline denial of your VCF claim, you are eligible for an updated decision under the Special Master’s new policy. For more information, please contact the 9/11 victims’ lawyers at Pitta & Baione by using our online contact form or by calling us at 844-982-2667.