A Message from Special Master Sheila Birnbaum
April 10, 2014
Today, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) issued updated program statistics (available, here). This report demonstrates the progress we have made over the past few months. Our eligibility and compensation decision rates have increased substantially. Since the last report in late January, the number of claimants found eligible has increased by 30% and compensation decisions have increased by more than 50%.
As I have noted previously, our biggest challenge to date has not been making decisions on complete forms, but rather the fact that many of the submissions we receive are incomplete. We realize that many claimants and lawyers have found it challenging to find and compile the paperwork that we need to fulfill our legal requirements to process claims. For that reason, we continue to work with the September 11th community to find resources to obtain information directly and other ways to make the process as easy as possible while still ensuring that the Fund has the information necessary to make decisions.
Thanks in part to many of your efforts to help us identify ways to streamline the application process, we’ve seen a 20% increase in the number of complete Eligibility Forms and a 67% increase in the number of Compensation Forms ready for review. These numbers reflect the ongoing outreach to the law firms representing claimants, both through regularly scheduled meetings and conference calls to discuss general issues and by establishing key points of contact at firms for weekly phone calls to review the status of each of the firm’s claims. We also have increased our direct communication with claimants who are not represented by an attorney to request needed documents, discuss options for providing the information to the VCF, and provide claim status. These efforts have had immediate, tangible results. For example, through outreach to lawyers, community groups and others, we have gotten the word out that the VCF cannot process claims without an original signed Exhibit A – and as a result there has been a 23% decrease in the number of claims that are missing this crucial form. We also continue to have discussions with the World Trade Center Health Program and the Clinical Centers of Excellence to identify ways to make it easier to locate the information needed in support of VCF claims.
I’ve stated all along that my goal is to make the application process as simple as possible while maintaining the integrity of the Fund. In furtherance of that goal, I am pleased to announce some key changes to the VCF staff. First, Deborah Greenspan will continue to serve as Deputy Special Master and will take on the additional title of Chief Executive Officer. In addition, Nell McCarthy, an attorney who recently has served key roles in the White House and the Department of Justice, has agreed to join the VCF as a Deputy Special Master, based in our Washington D.C. office. Ms. McCarthy will focus on the operational management of the Fund and report directly to me. I look forward to introducing her to our partners in this effort in the coming weeks and months. Together, we are committed to working with the community to continue to improve the efficacy of the overall process. We will also continue to work with claimants and their lawyers to make as many eligibility and compensation decisions as quickly as possible. I am sure we will continue to make even more progress with the level of cooperation we are receiving from the 9/11 community and the law firms who are filing claims.
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 1-202-353-0356.