We know that there is a lot of confusion surrounding the benefits available to the 9/11 community. Here are the 5 most common misconceptions and what you need to know:
1) The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) and the World Trade Center Health Program are only for first responders. This is the biggest misconception in the 9/11 community. Over 400,000 downtown workers, residents, students, and teachers are eligible for the same health care and compensation as first responders, yet less than 10% of these civilians have enrolled in the WTC Health Program — compared to over 80% of responders.
2) I don’t qualify for these programs if I have a family history of cancer or if I smoked. 68 cancers have been linked to the WTC toxins. If you were in the NYC Disaster Area for a sufficient amount of time, there is a presumption that your cancer was caused by your exposure. Even if you have a family history of cancer, even if you smoked for 40 years and got lung cancer, even if you never wore sunscreen and got skin cancer, the VCF and WTC Health Program still presume your illness was caused by your exposure to the WTC toxins. Your private doctors may not be aware of the presumption Always check with the Health Program!
3) I wasn’t there on 9/11, so I don’t qualify for these programs. Despite what the EPA told us, the air in Lower Manhattan was not “safe”. In fact, the buildings were on fire for 99 days and Lower Manhattan was toxic for months after 9/11. The VCF and WTC Health Program cover anyone present between September 11th, 2001, and May 30th, 2002. Those who were in the exposure zone (South of Canal Street or the Staten Island landfill) in the following days, weeks, or months must meet certain time requirements to qualify for the VCF. Those who were north of Canal Street and south of Houston Street or in parts of western Brooklyn will be eligible for the Health Program only.
To be eligible, responders and non-responders must prove that they:
- Were caught in the dust cloud on 9/11, or
- Spent more than 4 hours in the exposure zone between 9/11 and Sept. 14, or
- Spent more than 24 hours during September, 2001, or
- Spent more than 80 hours between 9/11 and May 30, 2002.
- For Pentagon responders to be eligible, they must prove that they worked at the site more than 4 hours between 9/11 and Nov. 19th.
4) I’m healthy, so there is no reason for me to enroll in the Victim Compensation Fund and WTC Health Program. Even if you’re healthy, we recommend that everyone register with the VCF and enroll in the WTCHP today. While both programs will be open until 2090, they require proof of exposure. The fact is that as the years go by, it gets more difficult to secure the proof of presence required. That evidence can include a letter from your employer (assuming the company you worked for is still in business), or two sworn affidavits from co-workers, neighbors, or fellow students. Tax returns, photos, and badges are also helpful. The reality is that in 10-30 years, your witnesses might not be around to sign affidavits, should you need them. By registering with the VCF now and securing your evidence, you’re preserving your right to make a claim in the future if you are diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness.
5) I missed the July 29, 2021 deadline, so I can’t make a Victim Compensation Fund claim. The VCF and WTC Health Program have been permanently extended until 2090. The recent July 29 deadline only applied to a subset of people that had illnesses certified by the WTC Health Program more than two years ago. There is a good chance that you can still make a claim with the VCF, even if you missed the July deadline. The VCF Special Master is urging everyone to register, even if they think that they missed the deadline. She has the power to find untimely claims eligible if she believes there were “extenuating circumstances” which caused you to miss the deadline. And, you should also know that if you are ever diagnosed with a new 9/11 illness, it will make all 9/11 illnesses eligible for compensation even those that were untimely.
We would appreciate your help debunking these misconceptions within the 9/11 community. Even if you weren’t there, please spread the word about the two government programs available to those who were there. More information about the VCF can be found at vcf.gov, and more information about the WTC Health Program can be found at cdc.gov/wtc.