The two months since I started as the new permanent Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (“VCF”) have flown by and have been both intense and rewarding. I have benefitted greatly from the training and guidance provided by the VCF’s excellent leadership team, and I am deeply moved by the commitment of the entire VCF team and their dedication in serving the 9/11 community.
Earlier this month, I traveled back to my home, New York City, although this was my first visit as Special Master of the VCF. I had the opportunity to meet with several important partners, including representatives from the NYC Mayor’s Office, staffers from 11 local Congressional offices, WTC Health Program staff, and the President and CEO of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. These relationships are critical to our outreach efforts, and our focus on ensuring all those who may be eligible for compensation are aware of the VCF. I am excited about the opportunities we discussed to work together to expand our outreach efforts.
I am humbled by the VCF team’s accomplishments over the years and excited to lead them in achieving the vision for our Transformation. What is Transformation? It is a re-imagining of the VCF to ensure that we are set up to operate efficiently as a permanent program and able to support victims and their families through 2090. If you have not yet read our 2022 Annual Report, I encourage you to review it to learn more about our Transformation mission, vision, and goals.
The foundation of our Transformation is the replacement of the current online claims system with a new, more modern system, called myVCF. myVCF will provide a significantly enhanced claimant experience, guiding claimants step-by-step through the process, providing helpful tips and resources all in one place, and leveraging automation to speed claims processing. The new system will provide expanded self-service capabilities and will ensure all required information has been provided before the claim can be submitted. We have added a new section to our website focused on Transformation, which will be updated frequently over the coming year as we get closer to the launch of myVCF.
A transformation of this type is not easy, and I need your help to make the transition to the new system as smooth as possible. We must decide as many claims as we can between now and early 2024, when myVCF launches, so we can more easily move claims into the new system. I have heard from my team that over 50% of submitted claims are not in good order, meaning they cannot be processed, and we must spend time requesting – and then awaiting – the information necessary to decide the claim. This results in reviewing claims multiple times, which hinders our ability to efficiently process all claims. We refer to these as “premature and insufficient” claims, and today we are posting to our website new public reporting on these claims. The VCF has always strived for transparency, and this new report shows the number and percentage of claims that are submitted without the basic documents and information we need.
Although this reporting is new, our requirements for submitting complete claims have not changed in years, yet the data shows we have a big problem. The only way we can speed up overall claims processing is if we have claims we can decide when we first pick them up for review. We want to shorten the timeframe from claim submission to award, but we cannot do it alone.
While in New York City earlier this month, I took the opportunity to meet in-person with many of the law firms who represent claimants, and I specifically asked for their professional attention in submitting complete claims. I asked them, and am asking all claimants, to please help us by doing the following:
- Do not submit your claim if you are not also ready to submit the minimally required documents. The list of minimally required documents can be found here: https://www.vcf.gov/policy/eligibility-criteria-and-deadlines#toc-a-preliminary-review. If your claim is not complete, and it is made inactive or denied, you will be moved to the back of the line. You will not be holding your place by submitting an incomplete claim but will instead be holding up the processing of yours and everybody else’s claim. Complete claims move faster!
- Do not submit your claim if you are not yet certified by the WTC Health Program for a physical condition. Just enrolling in the WTC Health Program does not meet this requirement as you must have a certified condition to be eligible for VCF compensation.
- Respond quickly to any letters we send requesting missing information.
- If you are working with an attorney, confirm they have all the required information and documents before they submit your claim. If your claim has already been submitted, ask your attorney if your claim is missing any documents or information, and if so, provide it as quickly as possible.
As part of our Transformation, I am committed to building a “trauma informed” and resilient organization, with an organizational structure, management structure, and service delivery focus built on these concepts. Taking care of our staff and providing them with these skills will better prepare them to interact with, and advocate for, claimants in a trauma-informed manner.
We want to do the best that we can for you, your loved ones, and the 9/11 community. My heart is with you, and my lifelong advocacy for victims and survivors drives me to lead the VCF with passion and dedication for excellent service. We will Transform together!
Lastly, to receive the latest VCF news, updates, policy announcements, and information on outreach events and activities, I encourage you to follow us @Sept11VCF.