Tomorrow is the last day for people who incurred medical expenses from a disease related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including mesothelioma and other types of cancers, to apply for federal financial assistance. More than 32,000 people already have applied.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 authorized financial and medical assistance for people who suffered physical harm or were killed as a result of the terrorist-related crashes at Ground Zero and other sites, as well as from debris removal efforts in the aftermath of those crashes.
Officials at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health say more than 1,140 people have developed a cancer related to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. First responders have a 15 percent higher cancer rate than people who were not exposed to the poisonous air, a study by Mount Sinai Medical Center shows.
As the deadline looms and scores of victims race to register for some type of compensation, now is a good time for those injured or had loved ones hurt or killed at the crash sites, to find more information about the World Trade Center Health Program and the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF), two important programs created under the Zadroga Act.
World Trade Center Health Program
Cancers initially were excluded from the list of WTC-related health conditions when President Barack Obama signed the provision into law, but 58 different types of cancer, including mesothelioma, were added in 2012.
The inclusion meant that first responders, recovery and cleanup workers, and volunteers at the 9/11 crash sites who developed these types of cancers may be eligible for medical monitoring, treatment and reimbursement for certain cancer treatment costs incurred after October 12, 2012.
Residents, students, certain visitors, and others who worked near the sites on 9/11 may also be eligible for monitoring and medical care.
Although there is no cost to receive assistance, people who are not already members of the program must apply for benefits. More information is available at the program’s website.
Medical care and monitoring is only available for health issues related to the terrorist attacks. The program advises anyone who isn’t sure if their health problems are related to 9/11 to ask their doctor during their first medical monitoring examination.
9/11 Victims Compensation Fund
Although the Zadroga Act produced the VCF and World Trade Center Health Program, they are separate initiatives. The federal government backed VCF with $2.8 billion in reimbursement funds to compensate first responders, volunteers and others who worked, went to school or lived at the 9/11 crash sites.
The fund “provides compensation for economic and non-economic loss to individuals or relatives of deceased individuals who were killed or physically injured as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes,” according to the VCF website.
VCF is intended to provide a “no-fault alternative to tort litigation” for these people. This means that, generally speaking, anyone who obtains compensation under the fund cannot also file a lawsuit seeking damages for physical injury or death related to the hijackings, crashes or recovery efforts.
It’s always best to discuss these types of issues with a qualified attorney before waiving any legal right. Talking to a qualified mesothelioma lawyer is also important if exposure to asbestos, other than from an incident related to 9/11, may have contributed to your illness.
Important VCF Deadlines to Keep in Mind
Registration is the first step in making a VCF claim for compensation. It involves creating an account which notifies the VCF that you’re a potential claimant.
You’re not required to file a claim after you register. If you don’t register before the deadline, you lose the option to file a claim at a later date. Deadlines are based on types of injury and date that injury was discovered.
Deadlines for Cancers, including Mesothelioma:
- Individuals who knew, or should have known, they suffered from a covered cancer as of October 12, 2012 must register by Oct. 12, 2014.
- People who discovered they’re suffering from a covered cancer, including mesothelioma, after October 12, 2012, have two years from the date of diagnosis to register. However, they must register no later than Oct. 3, 2016.
- Those who suffer from known conditions added to the list after Oct. 3, 2011 have two years from the date the condition was included in the register to apply, but they must register by Oct. 3, 2016.
Deadlines for Non-Cancer Illnesses:
- People who knew, or should have known, of physical harm or illness resulting from the 9/11 attacks as of Oct. 3, 2013 must register by Thursday.
- People who find out after the Thursday deadline have two years from the date they discovered the physical harm or illness to register, but they must apply no later than Oct. 3, 2016.
Remember: Registration alone doesn’t make you eligible for VCF compensation. In addition to registering by these deadlines, you must also file a claim. The deadline for all potential applicants to file a claim is Oct. 3, 2016.
VCF records show you don’t waive your right to file a lawsuit until your eligibility form is “submitted and deemed substantially complete.” After you register, you can start the eligibility form, but you don’t have to complete it at that moment. Just remember that it must be completed and submitted by Oct. 3, 2016 in order to file a claim.