This has been a year of many challenges, and significant changes for the VCF, greatest among them the July passage of the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act (“VCF Permanent Authorization Act”), which secured the VCF’s funding for claims and amendments filed through 2090 (see page 5). This year also saw the departure of Deputy Special Master Jordy Feldman, who left the VCF after more than 10 years of superb and dedicated service. Jordy’s far-reaching contributions will continue to benefit the 9/11 community for years to come, and she has my deepest gratitude for her service to this community.
In the past, we dedicated a large portion of our Annual Report to the calculations and projections that were focused on ensuring the VCF would not run out of funding before paying all eligible claims. Although I remain fully committed to maintaining the fiscal stewardship that the VCF Permanent Authorization Act recognizes, now that the VCF is financially secure, we have changed the format of this report to instead highlight the major events, accomplishments, and progress of 2019, and provide a glimpse into the future of the VCF. I hope you enjoy the new design.
Many will recall that the year began with the looming possibility of award reductions due to insufficient funding, which resulted in a record number of claims being filed between October 2018 (when the notice of potential reductions was published in the Federal Register) and January 2019. With deep regret, in February I announced reductions to awards, which went into effect immediately. You will see more throughout this report about the reductions, the subsequent legislation, and about the VCF team’s successful effort to notify every person who previously received a reduced award (nearly 1,700 individuals) of their unreduced award prior to the 2019 anniversary of September 11.
As all this unfolded, the VCF carried on with its regular activities, detailed throughout this report, and began the substantial task of figuring out what changes might be needed as we move from a program set to end within months, to one that will now accept claims for decades to come. I am very gratified to report that our first major policy change – detailed on page 6 – has been widely recognized as a tremendous benefit to those impacted by the events of September 11, 2001.
Also included in this report is important information about our claimant population, significant trends we continue to see, and our progress on reducing the time it takes to make award determinations. We have also provided detailed information on the number of claims we continue to receive, and the number of award determinations made.
From all perspectives, 2019 was a highly productive and successful year. And, although it included great challenges and unprecedented change, it also included significant achievements. By year’s end, the VCF had awarded nearly $6 billion to almost 26,000 claimants. As we move into 2020, we are charting a strong and sustainable course for the future of the VCF.