September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) provides financial benefits to the people who were injured and to the families of those who were lost in the terrorist attacks of 2001.
Congress passed the bill that created the fund on September 22nd, eleven days after the attacks. The fund would cover both economic and non-economic losses, and there was no set limit to the amount of benefits one individual could receive. However, by filing a VCF claim, claimants could not sue or be party to any lawsuit against the airline companies involved.
Noah Krushefsky on the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund
Originally, compensation was available only to families of those killed as a result of the plane crashes and those survivors with directly-related physical injuries who were present at any of the disaster sites. This included the passengers and crew members in the aircraft, first responders, and any individuals who worked in or within the vicinity of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
For surviving family members to qualify for compensation, it needed to be shown that 1) the person was present at the site of the attack, 2) the person was killed in the attack, and 3) the family suffered a loss in the attack. Injured individuals had to have sought medical care within 72 hours of the attack to qualify for compensation.
The VCF was scheduled to operate from 2001 to 2004 and in that time, distributed more than 5,500 awards totaling $7 billion.
The Zadroga Act
In the years following the end of the original VCF, thousands of other people began to develop serious health issues — first responders, the workers and volunteers who assisted in clean-up and debris removal, as well as residents who lived, worked or went to school near ground zero.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (known as the Zadroga Act) was signed into law in 2011 to reactivate the VCF for an additional five years. It allocated $2.8 billion to compensate those sickened from exposure to toxic fumes, dust and smoke.
The act was named after NYPD officer James Zadroga, who developed a respiratory disease after weeks of working in and around ground zero. He died in 2006.
To help determine eligibility, the bill established an exposure zone encompassing most of Lower Manhattan south of Canal Street. To be eligible, the individual had to have been present in the exposure zone some time between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002. The claimant must also have been diagnosed with one of the covered medical conditions.
Finally, anyone seeking compensation from the fund must agree not to sue any of the organizations involved in the rescue, recovery and cleanup efforts nor are they allowed to appeal the fund’s decisions on eligibility.
The Zadroga Act also created the World Trade Center Health Program to provide medical care and treatment for responders working in the disaster sites and other survivors who were in the exposure zone.
“Passing the Zadroga Act was critical to the thousands of first responders and others who developed terrible illnesses caused by their heroic rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero.”
Although the VCF was reauthorized again in 2015, by 2019, the funds were beginning to run out, and administrators warned that some payouts would have to be cut by 70%. By that time, there had been nearly 50,000 eligible compensation claims paid amounting to more than $5 billion.
Never Forget the Heroes Act
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was essentially made permanent in 2019 with the Never Forget the Heroes Act, which extended the filing date for any claims to October of 2090.
The bill also mandates that VCF policies must be reviewed at least once every five years, and the annual limit on compensation must be adjusted for inflation.
As the number of deaths from diseases related to the rescue efforts and clean-up following the September 11th attacks continues to rise, it is important to make sure that the brave men and women receive the recovery to which they are entitled and that their sacrifice is not overlooked.