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Free Legal Clinics for September 11th Victim Compensation Fund – by Sheila L. Birnbaum

As Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, I would like to thank the City Bar Justice Center for its invaluable service in offering free legal clinics (the most recent one on June 11, 2013) for individuals needing assistance in filing claims without an attorney under the Fund. Nine clinics, serving over 300 individuals, have been held through the Justice Center since the VCF opened on October 3, 2011. Needless to say, this service could not be provided without the diligent aid and extraordinary commitment of the many law firms and pro bono attorneys in the New York Metropolitan Area who have been willing to give of their time and expertise. The individuals filing claims have expressed much gratitude for the legal advice they received in filing their claims. In addition, pro bono coordinators from these law firms have been enormously helpful in recruiting the attorneys.

In particular, I would like to emphasize the value of this free legal service in increasing the possibilities of greater access to benefits and justice for claimants filing with the VCF.  Enabling claimants to submit more complete and accurate claims enables the Fund to review the claims more efficiently, and to expedite the process for making awards to those eligible. The Justice Center has played a critical role as well in providing general information about the VCF and the claim filing deadlines.

GENERAL PROGRAM INFORMATION: On January 2, 2011, President Obama signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-347) (Zadroga Act). Title II of the Zadroga Act reactivates the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 that operated from 2001-2004 and requires a Special Master, appointed by the Attorney General, to provide for economic and non-economic loss for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes.

CLAIM FILING DEADLINES: In general, Claimants with a qualified injury who plan to file a claim with the Fund will have two (2) years to file a REGISTRATION FORM in order for the VCF to consider your claim.Claimants who know (or reasonably should have known) of physical harm resulting from the September 11th attacks as of October 3, 2011, must Register by October 3, 2013. If you subsequently learn of physical harm, you must Register within two (2) years of the date you learn (or reasonably should have known) that you suffered an injury as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

The final rule adding certain types of cancer to the List of WTC-Related Health Conditions took effect on October 12, 2012. Therefore, if you know (or reasonably should have known) as of October 12, 2012 that you suffer from a covered cancer, you must file your Registration Form with the VCF by October 12, 2014. If you learned after October 12, 2012 that you suffer from a covered cancer, you must file your Registration Form within two (2) years of the date that you learn (or reasonably should have known) that you suffer from the covered cancer.

Where Do I Obtain Additional Information?

www.vcf.gov

This website has been set up to support making the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) as fair, transparent, and easy to navigate as possible. On it, you will be able to do the following:

  • File a claim with the VCF;
  • Obtain a list of the kinds of documents and information that we will need in order to process your claim, so that you can begin collecting any necessary materials; and
  • Review newly updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Assistance and Accessibility
If you need assistance using the website or with your submission, you can call our toll-free number 1-855-885-1555 (or 1-855-885-1558 for the hearing impaired). If you are calling from outside the United States, please call 1-202-353-0356.

Again, many thanks to the Justice Center and the New York legal community for your invaluable pro bono efforts on behalf of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.  I look forward to our continued collaboration. Much success to all in your other endeavors.

 

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