When the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Reauthorization Act went into effect last December, Congress charged the Justice Department with writing a rule to implement it. The Attorney General appointed Sheila L. Birnbaum as Special Master, and Ms. Birnbaum recently published the Interim Final Rule for the VCF. Potential claimants should be aware that the Interim Final Rule contains regulatory changes designed to reduce the burden of applying. These changes include:
- Expanding the definition of spouse to include a same-sex spouse who was lawfully married to a deceased 9/11 victim under applicable state law
- Removing the requirement that a claimant submit all tax returns beginning three years prior to a deceased victim’s death up to the year of death or the year the claim was filed, but allowing the Special Master to retain discretion to require tax returns especially where the applicant claims loss of income for a self-employed individual
- Adding a new paragraph to section 104.45(e) to clarify how the Special Master determines “noneconomic loss for economic loss claims” by “taking into account the extent of disability and the fact that different eligible conditions may contribute to the disability”
- Giving the Special Master discretion to “consider the effect of multiple cancer conditions or multiple cancer and non-cancer conditions in computing the total noneconomic loss” rather than strictly observing a single $250,000 cap for cancer and $90,000 for a non-cancer illness
- Removing the requirement that a personal representative of a deceased victim must submit a plan of distribution for an award before payment can be authorized, but giving the Special Master discretion to require submission of a plan
As a leading law firm representing 9/11 responders, victims and survivors, Barasch, McGarry, Salzman & Penson appreciates the steps being taken to reduce unnecessary burdens on VCF claimants. We also appreciate the efficiency that the Special Master has demonstrated in meeting the deadlines for action prescribed in the new law. We hope that the good work continues, so that pending claims and new claims are paid in a timely manner.
If you have questions about your eligibility for Zadroga Act benefits, contact the experienced attorneys who have represented 9/11 survivors from the outset. Call Barasch, McGarry, Salzman & Penson at 888-351-9421 or contact our office online.