The anniversary of the September 11th attacks is always a time for reflection. For me personally, this is the first anniversary since being appointed earlier this year as the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund’s (“VCF”) interim Special Master. Despite my relatively short time in this role, I have been touched by the stories in each claim I have reviewed, and deeply impressed by the perseverance, resilience, and humility of the community our team serves. Today, we continue to pay tribute to the lives lost and the community that came together during the recovery efforts in response to one of our country’s hardest challenges.
Our latest program statistics report, available on our website and updated each month, reflects the steady progress the VCF continues to make as we approach this year’s anniversary: as of August 31, 2022, we have made awards to 46,383 individuals, totaling over $10.3 billion in compensation awards since the VCF re-opened in October 2011. The report also reinforces the ongoing need for the VCF following the enactment of the “Never Forget the Heroes, James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act” in July 2019. Sixty-one percent of determinations made since passage of the 2019 Permanent Authorization Act involve cancer as one of the claimant’s eligible conditions, and eight percent were claims filed on behalf of an individual who is believed to have died of a 9/11-related illness. In terms of the breakdown between responders and survivors – since July 2019, we have received 12,851 claims from responders, and 15,847 claims from survivors. Cumulatively, we have over 42,610 responder claims and just over 33,913 survivor claims. And, we continue to receive claims from every single state in the country.
Former Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya, who left Government service earlier this year, steered the VCF successfully through enormous challenges to create a lasting model that will serve the 9/11 community going forward. She left enormous shoes to fill. While the Department is actively working to identify a permanent Special Master, I have fully embraced my position as interim Special Master and have focused first and foremost on ensuring there is no disruption or delay in our team’s work. It was clear to me on my first day in this role that every member of the VCF team is passionate about our mission and dedicated to those we serve. The entire team and I remain committed to ensuring a smooth transition throughout the search for a permanent Special Master, deciding claims within 12 months once all information needed to decide the claim has been provided, and developing a new claims management system to serve responders and survivors more efficiently in the future.
Over the past year, we have also worked to increase our outreach efforts and identified new partners to help us better serve the community. This includes simplifying the claims process overall and identifying ways to assist claimants with “proof of presence” documentation, which has become increasingly important with the passage of time. And we are mindful of ensuring that our outreach efforts reach underserved communities to help make sure everyone who may qualify for the program knows that it is available to them.
We are proud to be in service to this community, and as the nation has done now for 21 years, we join in honoring those who died on 9/11, those who have been lost in the years since, and the many individuals who are living with the unforgiving consequences of that day. We are committed to doing our part to continue to bring some level of financial relief to this deeply deserving community, and we remain dedicated to doing so with care and compassion for decades to come.
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.