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Posted on August 12, 2015

Message from Special Master Sheila Birnbaum

Message from Special Master Sheila Birnbaum

April 8, 2015

I am proud to announce that the VCF has made loss determinations of more than $1 billion. As of March 31, 2015, the VCF has approved 10,549 eligibility claims and rendered 4,415 loss decisions, totaling $1,058,398,144. First responders account for 92 percent of the total loss amount. Individuals with cancer diagnoses account for 27 percent of the awards. This information and additional updated program statistics are available here.

Achieving these milestones is an important step for the VCF. Our sole responsibility is to compensate the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks. While there is much work to be done, these milestones indicate that we are making significant progress in fulfilling our responsibility to the 9/11 community.

The program statistics released today show that our work with claimants, attorneys, and third parties has resulted in improvements across the board. Of note, we have seen a significant increase as compared to the same time last year in the number of eligibility and compensation claims that are submitted with the supporting documents required to process the claim. Our efforts to educate claimants and others about the kinds of documents required to support a claim, and to clarify our communications about those documents, has resulted in higher numbers of actionable claims and decisions rendered. We want to acknowledge the cooperation of the legal community in working closely with us to improve the documentation they provide.

Each claim is different, and each claim receives the attention necessary to evaluate the claimant’s circumstances in determining eligibility and loss. The VCF depends on claimants to file complete claims and depends on third parties, including claimants’ employers and physicians, to provide required supporting information. Because of these individual factors, it would be misleading to provide any statement of average processing times. The VCF continues to work to facilitate processing and streamlining systems where possible without sacrificing quality and appropriate review. While we are making progress, we will not be satisfied until we process as many claims as possible in the shortest amount of time.

The VCF also announced this quarter that we have begun to deny claims if the claimant or his or her attorney does not respond to multiple requests for missing required information. In the past two years, we have worked with thousands of claimants to obtain required documentation, but we have also made multiple outreach attempts to claimants who never respond. For any claimant whose claim is denied for failing to provide missing information, the claim can be reopened at any time by submitting the missing information before October 3, 2016. No submissions will be accepted after October 3, 2016. As always, we strongly encourage claimants to submit information as early as possible.

Last, I leave claimants with an important reminder about VCF payments. Once you receive your initial 10 percent payment, please remember that, while the VCF anticipates making a second payment on your claim, we do not know at this time how much the VCF will be able to pay in the second payment. The VCF has a limited amount of funding. If the total loss calculations for all claims exceeds the VCF’s funding limit, the final payments on all claims will be further pro-rated and the amount of your combined payments will be less than the full amount of your loss calculation.

As always, if you have questions about the VCF claims process, I encourage you to call our toll-free Helpline at 1-855-885-1555. 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.

VCF Program Statistics (Represents activity through the end of the day on March 31, 2015)