WASHINGTON, DC -- The Department of Justice announced today that since it reopened in 2011, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) has paid over $1.52 billion to first responders, recovery workers, and residents who suffered physical harm or were killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of Sept. 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes. The VCF is now ready to enter its next phase and today posted for public comment updated regulations that will govern the program for the next several years.
The $1.52 billion includes all payments made to date – either partial or in full – on Group A claims, defined as claims for which a loss determination was issued on or before Dec. 17, 2015. Since reauthorization of the VCF in December 2015, the Special Master has authorized the final payment on 8,930 Group A claims. This means that the VCF has less than 200 Group A claims left to be authorized for full payment. All of the remaining claims have issues preventing payment; however, the VCF is working with claimants and their representatives to resolve the open issues as quickly as possible. The Special Master will authorize payment on remaining Group A claims by the end of the month.
In addition to the priority placed on paying Group A claims as quickly as possible, the Special Master has also issued updated regulations as an Interim Final Rule, with a 30-day post-publication comment period, as well as created an updated claim form.
“It has taken a tremendous amount of work to update the regulations to reflect the reauthorization law and to redesign the claim form to make it easier to use, while at the same time continuing to implement the other changes required by the reauthorization,” said VCF Special Master Sheila Birnbaum. “I encourage claimants to review the new sample claim form and begin gathering the relevant information and documents so they are prepared to submit their claim when the form becomes available online and in hard copy at the end of July. I realize no amount of money can alleviate the losses suffered on Sept. 11, 2001, but the 9-11 community is one of great resilience, and the men and women who are working so hard to process VCF claims are proud and privileged to work with all of you.”
The Interim Final Rule is effective as of today and has been posted on the VCF website for public inspection and review. The rule has also been formally published in the Federal Register and the 30-day comment period has begun. Information on how to submit comments can be found in the document. By publishing the regulations as an Interim Final Rule, the VCF can begin issuing Group B compensation decisions as soon as Group B funding becomes available, while still allowing Special Master Birnbaum to carefully consider any comments received post-publication and make any necessary changes before issuing a Final Rule.
Additionally, the updated claim form has been finalized. A sample version of the revised form can be found on the VCF website. The sample form cannot be submitted as a claim at this time, but provides claimants with a guide to understand the type of information and documents that will be needed once the VCF begins accepting new claims. For more information about the timing for submitting new claims, please see the Special Master’s May 24 message.
The VCF continues to review Group B claims and contact claimants to request missing information when needed. The VCF has rendered more than 2,500 eligibility decisions since the beginning of January and completed loss calculations for more than 1,000 claims. The VCF continues to send “Group B Complete” letters to claimants to inform them that their claim has been reviewed and any eligible loss has been calculated. The Special Master expects to begin issuing the first Group B loss determinations at the end of June, with the expectation that the first full payments will be authorized in mid-August. This is contingent on finalizing the accounting for Group A payments and the subsequent availability of Group B funding.
Claimants are encouraged to call the VCF Helpline at 1-855-885-1555 with any questions they may have. For the hearing impaired, please call 1-855-885-1558 (TDD). If you are calling from outside the United States, please call 1-202-514-1100.