In the last year or so, many 9/11 survivors have been wondering whether to file a claim with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), go with the newer U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (USVSST Fund), or simply file with both and see which delivers an award sooner. However, the VCF has made it clear the dual track approach will not work. To understand the issues, some background is necessary.
Congress has authorized two funds to compensate victims of terrorist acts. The first, the World Trade Center Victim Compensation Fund, was established to assist first responders and others who were injured in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including events at the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The second, the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, came about after the Department of Justice reached settlements with several international banks that had violated U.S. sanctions law, thereby facilitating attacks on U.S. targets by state sponsors of terrorism.
The USVSST Fund provides compensation to victims of international state-sponsored terrorism who:
- Have secured final judgments in a U.S. district court against a state sponsor of terrorism, or
- Were held hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran from 1979 to 1981
Since a 9/11 survivor could qualify for VCF and USVSST benefits, the VCF has issued instructions to law firms handling both types of claims, clarifying the impact one type of claim has on the other. The important points in these instructions are as follows:
- The USVSST Fund has made clear that the terms of the Justice for U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act are controlling and well-settled.
- Because VCF claims are paid in full, the claimant who gets a VCF award is not eligible for USVSST funds.
- Even if a claimant is eligible for USVSST compensation, receipt of a VCF award makes him or her ineligible.
- USVSST considers a claimant to be in “receipt of a VCF award” if “VCF has issued a loss calculation letter that has become final and payable.”
- A VCF claimant can keep a USVSST claim alive by withdrawing the VCF claim at certain points in the process.
- USVSST will not adjudicate a claim if they know a VCF claim is pending.
These rules are in place to prevent claimants from receiving a double recovery, but that doesn’t placate claimants who are simply interested in receiving their benefits in a timely manner. VCF has admitted that 18 months is far too long for a determination and has committed to processing WTC claims within 12 months.
Barasch & McGarry helps responders and others affected by 9/11 illnesses get the benefits they deserve. For a free consultation with a lawyer who understands your situation and the law, please contact us online or call 888-351-9421.