The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) and the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) are often mentioned in the same breath. This makes sense since both were established by the Zadroga Act and run by the federal government. Misunderstandings about the differences often cause confusion, however, since many people don’t realize it is possible to qualify for one and not the other. Here are the main things you need to know to find out if you are eligible for one or both of these programs:
- Geographical Boundaries: The boundaries that these programs serve are overlapping but not entirely the same. The main thing to know is that the VCF has more restrictive boundaries than the WTCHP. In order to get no cost health treatment, survivor community members and some responders must prove they lived, worked, or went to school below Houston Street or in a small swatch of Western Brooklyn that is within 1.5 miles of the WTC site. VCF claimants, meanwhile, must show that they were below Canal Street during the qualifying period (or at the Fresh Kills landfill, on the debris removal barges or at any of the morgues). People who were in Western Brooklyn or between Houston Street and Canal Street do qualify for the health treatment through the WTCHP, but do not qualify compensation from the VCF. Click here to see a map of the boundaries: www.cdc.gov/wtc/define/html.
- Responders vs. Survivors: These terms get thrown around a lot, but only the WTCHP makes a distinction between the “responder” and “survivor” communities, which are served by different Centers of Excellence and using slightly different criteria. The VCF treats any eligible claimant who meets their criteria the same way. That means that sick survivors and responders qualify for the same levels of compensation and go through the same claims process with the VCF. They are, however, served by different arms of the WTCHP and must meet different criteria in order to qualify for monitoring. Additionally, responders who were at the SI Fresh Kills landfill or at the morgues are also eligible.
- Proof of Presence: The WTCHP and VCF are operated by different federal agencies and have slightly different proof of presence in the exposure zone requirements. The VCF is generally stricter. Whereas for the health program a school transcript, utility bill, or paystub is often enough to prove presence, most people applying to the VCF find that the surest thing to do is provide two Witness Affidavits. We encourage people to get their VCF affidavits filled out now, even if they aren’t yet sick. With each passing year it can get harder to find witnesses who saw you in the exposure zone nearly 20 years ago, so people can and should protect themselves by having affidavits on hand in case they need them in the future. The forms, which do not require a notary, are available on our site at Proof of Presence Affidavit.
- Time of Exposure: The health program and the VCF require proof that both responders and survivors were exposed on 9/11, or more than 4 hours between 9/11 and 9/14; or more than 24 hours during September, 2001; or more than 80 hours during part of the 8 months that followed.
If you have questions about these, we’re here to help! Give our office a call for a free consultation.