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WTC Health ProgramVictim Compensation Fund

How Much Is Your Claim Worth? How Long Will It Take?

December 18, 2023 | Michael Barasch

Thanks to the Zadroga Act, 9/11 responders and survivors have the right to substantial compensation for 69 different types of cancer and respiratory illnesses. These tax-free awards include compensation for pain and suffering, lost earnings, and benefits for surviving spouses and family members.

Some people have expressed that they feel guilty making a claim for a non-life threatening illness. We assure you that you won‘t be taking from others since the VCF has been fully funded.

Most non-terminal illness claims simply get added to the VCF queue when they are submitted. The VCF has worked to shorten the timeframe between when a claim is submitted and when a decision is made, but as of now the time frame from submitting a claim to receiving an award is 12-18 months.

Barasch & McGarry Partner Lee London and Client Onboarding Team Manager Zaire Millet

If this seems like a long time, keep in mind that VCF claims take a while to review, in part because each claim is individually calculated. In particular, complex lost income claims can take longer to work out, and the program sometimes has to wait for information from third parties about the other benefits the victim or family may have received. Wrongful death claims also take longer—especially if a decedent didn’t have a will and we have to petition a surrogate court to appoint an executor of a victim’s estate. Some surrogate courts are backlogged over one year.

To compare, most personal injury lawsuits take 3+ years from the date a lawsuit is filed until trial.

Amending or appealing your VCF claim typically takes a year, but expedited reviews are possible in urgent cases, if a claimant has received an eviction or foreclosure notice or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The “terminal expedite process” exists because of the VCF’s compassionate recognition of the suffering which so many people endure. It has been a godsend to hundreds of people in the 9/11 community.

Supervising Attorneys James Steiner and Jennifer Jimenez

For instance: a retired FDNY firefighter exposed to toxins at Ground Zero. He was initially awarded $20,000 for respiratory illnesses. Ten years later he was diagnosed with multiple cancers. We amended his claim and asked the VCF to expedite his claim when his doctor told him that his cancer was terminal. The VCF awarded him the maximum $340,000 within one week. As tragic as his death a few months later was, he was comforted with the knowledge that his family would be financially secure.

His story represents the experiences of many 9/11 responders and survivors. As more and more of our clients have been diagnosed with terminal cancers, Barasch & McGarry has created an expedite team to handle urgent claims and help 9/11 victims receive their award while still alive.

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