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How the DOMA Supreme Court Ruling Helps Spouses of 9/11 Victims

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. As a result, same-sex partners who were legally married in their home state were nonetheless denied federal benefits.

In 2002, Kenneth R. Feinberg, the special master of the initial September 11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), announced that gay and lesbian domestic partners would be eligible for compensation for loss of a partner — as long as the victim’s family agreed. In some cases, the victim’s family did not accept their loved one’s partner or spouse, resulting in the unfair circumstance that eligibility was tied to the feelings of the victim’s family members.

In addition, the Victim Compensation Fund relies on the federal income tax return to determine who is married. Under DOMA, same-sex married couples were required to file separately as single people because, according to the U.S. government, they were not legally married.

The Supreme Court of the United States struck down DOMA in its landmark June 2013 case United States v. Windsor. SCOTUS ruled that treating legal marriages differently was unconstitutional — welcome news for same-sex partners across the country who had suffered discrimination throughout the course of their relationships. The SCOTUS decision also supported a more equitable process for individuals who lost their spouses at the World Trade Center, Pentagon or the United Airline crash in Shanksville.

The U.S. Supreme Court DOMA ruling helped same-sex partners pursue claims under the VCF by granting the following rights:

  • Recognition of marital relationship — The Fund recognizes the same-sex relationship, even though the partners could not identify themselves as married on their tax returns prior to June 2013.
  • Recognition of parenting relationship — The law recognizes a same-sex spouse’s parenting relationship and, thus, her or his child is entitled to compensation as a dependent.
  • Entitlement to Victim Compensation Fund — The victim’s spouse is entitled to compensation, just as a heterosexual spouse would be, regardless of the position of the victim’s family.

Barasch & McGarry advocates for fair treatment of 9/11 victims and their families.

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  • Deadline Extended to Register for Compensation

    There is still time to apply for significant compensation if you have been diagnosed with any of the 68 cancers that doctors at the WTC Health Program (WTCHP) have linked to the WTC toxic dust. The deadline to apply to the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) is two years from the date that a cancer has been certified by the WTC Health Program — or any other governmental agency. The two-year period to register doesn’t start on the day of a cancer diagnosis. Rather, it starts only when a cancer survivor is made aware their cancer was linked to exposure to the WTC toxins.

    For those who died from their WTC-linked cancers, the two-year period for their family to register starts on the day of the death of the WTC victim.

    Register For Compensation

Please help spread the word about the strict two-year deadline to register a claim

Many people have tried to complete the VCF application on their own, only to learn that it requires answers to hundreds of questions and many documents to download. It would be our pleasure to help you complete the process in order to ensure that you receive the compensation that you are entitled to. Please call us for a free consultation.

Let a knowledgeable attorney help you figure it out

A cancer diagnosis can be terrifying. You undoubtedly have questions about your disease and how you will pay for treatment. Lawyers at Barasch & McGarry ensure you understand the complex requirements and help devise the best strategies for obtaining compensation and appropriate medical care under the Zadroga Act. Contact our law firm online or call 888-351-9421. The initial consultation is free, so it costs you nothing to find out whether a lawyer can help.
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