Thanks to a directive issued just before the anniversary of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, if a first responder has a 9/11-related illness and dies of COVID-19, his or her family will be able to obtain benefits from the federal Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).
This new VCF directive is welcome news for first responders, their families and their advocates, who had been pressing for clarity on this topic since the pandemic set in. Per the VCF Special Master’s announcement, if a 9/11 survivor’s death certificate cites COVID-19 as a cause of death along with any one of the recognized 9/11-related conditions, the family is eligible for compensation.
The compensation is not automatic. The 9/11 survivor must be registered with both the WTC Health Program and the VCF. At the same time, the VCF registration deadline has been tightened. Under the old deadline, you had to file a claim within two years of having the illness certified by the WTC Health Program or within two years of the survivor’s death. Now, the new deadline is July 29, 2021.
Sara Director of Barasch & McGarry, one of our attorneys who has been advocating for these changes, stressed their special relevance to first responders and their families. “They have a compromised immune system to begin with, and are at greater risk to contract and succumb to [COVID-19],” Director said in a recent news article. “We want to ensure that no single survivor or first responder who is eligible to receive compensation is left out because they didn’t know about the deadline.”
Director estimates that about 100 of our clients have died from coronavirus so far during the pandemic. This virus, which preys on people with underlying conditions like cancer and respiratory problems — the exact problems that plague the 9/11 community — is perhaps the biggest collective threat the community has faced since the Sept. 11 attack itself.
If you are a 9/11 survivor or first responder, or you are a family member of a survivor or first responder who passed away due to COVID-19, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Barasch & McGarry in New York. Our lawyers would be happy to answer your questions and to assist you in getting registered. If you need to file a claim, we can walk you through it. You can call us at 888-351-9421 or contact us online. Initial consultations are free.