The coronavirus pandemic has sparked a medical and economic crisis, flooding hospitals with new patients, shuttering businesses, and forcing many people to stay home.
It is also having an impact on benefits for 9/11 responders and survivors, including those who contracted respiratory and other illnesses during the attacks that make them particularly susceptible to the virus. Although the Victim Compensation Fund remains open, the program’s administrators say there will be delays in all aspects of the claims process, from eligibility determinations and appeals to payment.
At Pitta & Baione, our VCF attorneys are continuing to help clients navigate the claims systems and get the full benefits available. We are closely monitoring the VCF program throughout the pandemic to ensure that our clients’ benefits are processed as efficiently as possible in this unprecedented time.
What to Expect from VCF During the Pandemic
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund offers financial compensation to eligible responders and survivors – and their heirs – for monetary losses related to physical injuries and illnesses caused by the attacks. That includes compensation for lost earnings and benefits, related out-of-pocket medical expenses and pain and suffering.
The VCF’s administrators are advising responders and survivors to expect delays during the pandemic. The Special Master says it understands the vital importance of ensuring that benefits are paid on time and has pledged to continue to process payments daily, minimizing any delays.
In the meantime, claimants can also use the VCF Helpline to check on the status of their claims and benefits payments. The Helpline is operational Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Most claimants slated for an eligibility hearing will experience delays. The VCF has cancelled all in-person hearings to reduce risks and encourage social distancing. Although the VCF is experimenting with telephonic hearings, this is on a limited basis. The VCF will not conduct eligibility hearings by phone, unless the person qualifies for the expedited review process.
It is also important to remember that various programs deadlines remain in effect during the pandemic. The VCF is sending eligibility and other determination letters electronically only, for the time being. That means you have 30 days from the time the letter is sent to file an appeal. If you do not appeal during this time, you will have another 30-day window for an appeal after a hard copy of the letter is eventually sent via mail.
Our VCF Attorneys Can Help
If you or a loved one is considering seeking 9/11 benefits – or if you are having trouble getting your claim approved – the September 11th benefits attorneys at Pitta & Baione can help. New and existing clients can continue to contact us around the clock.
For more information about eligibility requirements of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and the World Trade Center Health Program, contact a lawyer at Pitta & Baione LLP at 844-WTC-COMP or firstname.lastname@example.org.