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Message from the Special Master – Auggie

March 10, 2023

It has been a true honor to serve as interim Special Master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (“VCF”).  This is an important mission and an incredible team that works hard every day to serve those who are suffering illnesses stemming from the terrorist attacks perpetrated over 20 years ago.  It has been my goal to ensure continuity during the search and hiring of a permanent Special Master so that the good work of this team continued without delay, and I hope I have met that goal. 

During my 10 months as Special Master, the VCF issued over 7,400 awards totaling over $1 billion dollars.  I have personally reviewed and rendered decisions on nearly 800 appeals, meeting my goal to reduce to six months or less the waiting period for a decision after an appeal hearing is held.   And I am excited to see the VCF working hard to transform towards a newer and more user-friendly claims system and process and look forward to watching the progress of this transformation over the next year.

This position has been a temporary one, but it has become the highlight of my legal career.  I now share the passion of those who work for the VCF in ensuring that we can continue to help those who were harmed by the 9/11 attacks.  I appreciate the importance of our work spreading the word about the VCF to people who may be eligible.  Mostly, I am pleased that the search for a permanent Special Master has been a success, and the VCF will be in good hands under the auspices of the new Special Master, Allison Turkel.   Allison is a native New Yorker, a former police officer and New York City prosecutor, a Justice Department veteran and civil servant, and someone who has dedicated her career to helping the victims of crime.  She will be a fierce advocate for the 9/11 community. 

As I leave this position, I want to express my appreciation for the many advocates for the 9/11 community who have worked with the VCF and pressed us to ensure fair and speedy resolution of claims -- a goal we all share.  Your work is critical to the community and continues to make the VCF better.   Thank you.  And I want to thank the many amazing people on our VCF team who work hard every day to achieve this important mission.  This is a truly remarkable team that welcomed me to this leadership role, gave me everything I needed to succeed, and did everything to ensure that my goal of continuity during this period of transition was achieved.  I have learned so much from everyone, enjoyed our time discussing a wide range of issues, and appreciated the amazing collegiality of this office.  I want to give a special thank you to long time leaders at the VCF, Deputy Special Master Stefanie Langsam and Associate Special Master Nicole P. Smith.  Without them during this period of transition, the continuity of operations and consistency in leading the VCF simply would have been impossible.  Thank you for your many years of dedication to this mission on behalf of the people whose lives have been impacted by 9/11, and keep up the great work. 

Finally, I have been humbled by the many stories of heroism from first responders and survivors who were in the impacted areas in 2001 and 2002.  In deciding nearly 800 appeals, I have heard those stories of everyday heroes, and the resilience they have shown to this day as they suffer from the lingering effects of their bravery and perseverance over 20 years ago.  I encourage you all to keep fighting for your health and wellbeing, and hope that this program can provide some comfort as you continue that fight.  We are here for you. 

Thank you,