The 2001 September 11 attacks immediately resulted in 2,996 deaths. This number includes passengers and crew on the four hijacked planes, people working in the attacked buildings and some of the first responders who tried to rescue people from the burning towers. Unfortunately, the devastation did not end there. In the years that have followed, many people have started to succumb to life-threatening illnesses and disabilities as a result of the disaster. Learn more about the special compensation fund set up for these people, and find out why they may soon need to pursue other options.
The legacy of 9/11
When two hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center in 2011, 24,000 gallons of jet fuel ignited, setting off a chain reaction that would result in a giant, toxic cloud of smoke and dust that engulfed much of the city below. Without any consideration for their personal safety, thousands of fire fighters and police officers attended the scene, breathing in significant quantities of toxic materials including asbestos, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide.
Since then, thousands of people have developed illnesses and disabilities as a result of this toxic cloud. These people are now receiving treatment for conditions that have occurred as a result of 9/11, and experts expect this number to grow. Notably, many of these victims have developed cancer, respiratory problems and sinus issues that mean they can no longer work.
The September 11th Victims Compensation Fund
The original September 11th Victims Compensation Fund (VCF) operated from December 2001 to June 2004. Congress set up the fund as a way for families and victims to claim compensation for losses suffered as a result of the terrorist attacks. Faced with overwhelming demand from victims, the U.S. President reopened the fund in 2011, under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010.
You can file a claim under the Zadroga Act if you were at any of the crash sites between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002. Crucially, recovery workers helping to remove debris from the site continued to suffer exposure to hazardous chemicals, so the fund also compensates these people. The fund operates on a strict 'no-fault' basis and aims to avoid lengthy litigation that is not in the interests of the victims or their families. To date, 21,000 people have filed claims with the VCF.
Eligibility for VCF claims
For people with 9/11-related injuries, the window of opportunity under the VCF will soon close. To claim compensation through the fund, first responders and survivors must register with the VCF before October 3rd, 2016. Campaigners want Congress to approve bills that would extend the program past this deadline, as many victims will continue to need support after this date.
Nonetheless, assuming this deadline does not change, 9/11 victims will need to consider alternative options to claim compensation.
Alternative compensation options
Most injured 9/11 victims cannot claim workers' compensation at this late stage. Employees (or their families) must notify employers of an injury no later than thirty days after an accident takes place or no more than thirty days after a death related to an injury. After this, you must then file a claim according to certain statutes. You must normally file your claim within a year after the accident. As such, it's now too late to file a workers' compensation claim for a 9/11 injury.
The only option available to victims and their families is now to apply for social security disability benefits. To successfully file a claim for disability benefits, your illness must meet certain conditions. For example, you must give medical evidence that the disability will last more than 12 months and/or result in your death. Only certain conditions are eligible for social security disability benefits, but this list of diseases includes many of the terminal conditions affecting 9/11 victims.
In any case, 9/11 victims should always contact a trained attorney. Even if you intend to claim through the VCF, an experienced attorney can help you present the best case and can make sure you get the right amount of compensation. You can click here for more info on contacting a social security disability lawyer.