Message from Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya
July 29, 2019
On July 29, 2019, President Trump signed into law H.R. 1327, The Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund ("VCF"). The VCF Permanent Authorization Act extends the VCF’s claim filing deadline from December 18, 2020, to October 1, 2090, and appropriates such funds as may be necessary to pay all approved claims.
This is a momentous occasion for the VCF and the 9/11 community, and I am extremely grateful for this show of confidence from Congress and the President. The enactment of this Act is also a testament to the heroic efforts of the responders, survivors, and advocates who tirelessly pursued this legislation, and without whom we would not be able to continue the vital work we do. The VCF has earned a reputation for being faithful to the statute under which it operates, fair to its claimants, and defensible to the taxpayers. As the VCF enters this new phase, we fully intend to continue in this vein, serving as trusted and fiscally responsible stewards of this funding and ensuring that it is properly directed to its intended use.
As many of you will recall, in February of this year, I determined that funding available at that time was insufficient to compensate all pending claims and all claims anticipated to be filed by the previous claim filing deadline of December 18, 2020. As a result, the VCF implemented reductions to awards to ensure, as required by law, that the VCF did not expend funds beyond its appropriated limit. With the enactment of the VCF Permanent Authorization Act, I have determined that the VCF’s funding is now sufficient to pay all pending and projected claims without the need for any continued reductions in awards.
I am very pleased that the Act, as signed into law, reverses the reductions made necessary by my prior determination and restores VCF awards to what they would have been if the reductions had not been implemented. Under the Act, the VCF is required to issue payments to any claimants who were impacted by the reductions in order to make up the difference between the reduced award that was paid and the unreduced value that would have been awarded but for the reductions. The law requires that the VCF issue these payments in the first fiscal year beginning after enactment of the VCF Permanent Authorization Act, which is the government’s fiscal year 2020 beginning on October 1, 2019. Recognizing the urgent needs of this community, we are committed to beginning this process immediately, taking the steps necessary to notify each of the nearly 1,700 affected individuals of their unreduced award prior to this year’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The VCF will begin processing the additional payment immediately following that notification, assuming we have the documentation required to pay the claim.
The VCF is poised to implement the VCF Permanent Authorization Act with vigor, optimism, and a deep and valued sense of financial solvency. At the same time, we acknowledge that this is also a poignant reminder of the many lives that have already been lost, and the unimagined toll that will continue to grow in the years ahead. We will never forget. But today, at least, we can celebrate a victory, and look to a secure future where compensation remains readily available for those who need it most.
In the weeks and months ahead, there will be updates and some changes as to how we operate our now “permanent” program. The entire VCF team is ready and eager to move forward into the next phase of this successful program with renewed energy and a reinvigorated clarity of purpose, and, as always, we remain dedicated to serving the needs of the 9/11 community.