September 11th Victim Fund to End Award Reductions, Restore Previously Reduced Awards
By R. Mitchell –
President Donald Trump today signed into law H.R. 1327, The Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) (VCF Permanent Authorization Act). The Act extends the VCF’s claim filing deadline from Dec. 18, 2020, to Oct. 1, 2090, and appropriates such funds as may be necessary to pay all approved claims.
Attorney General William P. Barr noted the Department’s strong support for the VCF and its continuing commitment to providing compensation to those who have suffered as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. “The VCF is an extraordinarily successful program, having awarded over $5.2 billion in compensation on more than 23,000 claims from individuals who have suffered physical health conditions, or from families of those who have died, as a result of exposure at the sites in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville. With 20,000 claims currently awaiting consideration, and more certain to be filed in the months and years ahead, today’s action ensures that the VCF can continue in its successful effort to compensate every deserving individual impacted by the tragic events of September 11,” said Attorney General Barr.
The VCF’s Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya, who was appointed to her position by the Attorney General in July 2016, reflected on the significance of today’s signing: “This is a momentous day for the VCF and the 9/11 community, and we are extremely grateful for this show of confidence from Congress and the President. The entire VCF team is ready and eager to move forward into the next phase of this successful program with renewed energy and a reinvigorated clarity of purpose, and, as always, we remain dedicated to serving the needs of the 9/11 community.”
In February of this year, the Special Master announced that she had determined that the $7.375 billion of appropriated available funding was insufficient to compensate all pending claims and all claims anticipated to be filed by the previous claim filing deadline of Dec. 18, 2020. As a result, she implemented reductions to awards to ensure, as required by law, that the VCF did not expend funds beyond its appropriated limit. With the enactment of the VCF Permanent Authorization Act, the Special Master has determined that the VCF’s funding is now sufficient to pay all pending and projected claims without the need for any continued reductions in awards.
Under the Act, the VCF is required to issue payments to any claimants who were impacted by the reductions in order to make up the difference between the reduced award that was paid and the unreduced value that would have been awarded had the reductions not been necessary. The law requires that the VCF issue these payments in the first fiscal year beginning after enactment of the VCF Permanent Authorization Act, which is the government’s fiscal year 2020 beginning on Oct. 1, 2019. Recognizing the urgent needs of this community, the VCF is committed to beginning this process immediately, taking the steps necessary to notify each of the nearly 1,700 affected individuals of their unreduced award prior to Sept. 11, 2019. The VCF will begin processing the additional payment immediately following that notification, assuming the VCF has the documentation required to pay the claim.
“By this year’s anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, we hope to have begun the payment process on unreduced awards for all previously-reduced claims,” said VCF Special Master Bhattacharyya. “We look forward to completing that process as quickly as possible so that we can continue the important work of providing needed compensation to those who are suffering.”
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