Message from Special Master Sheila Birnbaum - Update on VCF Reauthorization
June 15, 2016
Since the reauthorization of the VCF in December 2015, I have been updating you on our progress and the various steps we have been taking to implement the changes required by the reauthorized statute. In several of those messages, I referred to the statutory deadline of June 15, 2016 for updating our regulations and issuing an Interim Final Rule. After working on the updated regulations for several months, and coordinating closely with the Government entities who participate in the rulemaking process, I am happy to report that the Interim Final Rule is effective as of today and has been posted on our website for public inspection and review. The rule has also been formally published in the Federal Register and the 30-day comment period has begun. Information on how to submit comments can be found in the document. By publishing the regulations as an Interim Final Rule, we can begin issuing Group B compensation decisions as soon as Group B funding becomes available, while still allowing me to carefully consider any comments received post-publication and make any necessary changes before issuing a Final Rule.
My recent messages have also included references to our work developing an updated claim form. I am very pleased to report that earlier this week, we received final approval of the form from the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”). A sample version of the revised form was posted to our website today. The sample form cannot be submitted as a claim, but provides you with a guide you can use to understand the type of information and documents that will be needed once we begin accepting new claims. I encourage you to review the form and begin gathering the relevant information and documents so you are prepared to submit your claim when the form becomes available online and in hard copy at the end of July. For more information about the timing for submitting new claims, please see my May 24 message.
Finally, you may have noticed some changes to our website when you visited it today. This is the first in a series of updates focused on two main goals: (1) making sure the content reflects the reauthorization and the changes associated with Group B claims; and (2) simplifying the “look and feel” of the site so it is easier to navigate and find specific information. We are continuing to review all of our Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) and other website materials and will be posting several sets of updates between now and the end of July when the new claim forms are released.
It has taken a tremendous amount of work to update the regulations to reflect the reauthorization law and to redesign the claim form, while at the same time continuing to implement the other changes required by the reauthorization. Below is an update on the other key activities our team has been focused on since the reauthorization.
Group A Payments
It is personally very rewarding to be able to report that all but a few Group A claimants have been paid in full, which I hope brings some measure of comfort to the victims and their families. As I have said in previous messages, I realize no amount of money can alleviate the losses suffered on September 11, 2001, but the 9/11 community is one of great resilience, and the men and women who are working so hard to process VCF claims are proud and privileged to work with all of you.
VCF Leadership Announcement
As we reach serval important milestones today, I am also pleased to announce a key change to the VCF staff. Stefanie Langsam, who worked on the first VCF and has been a key member of our leadership team since 2011, has been appointed as a Deputy Special Master. Stefanie will focus on the operational management of the VCF and report directly to me. You can read more about Stefanie and her role on the VCF here.
As always, I encourage you to call the VCF Helpline at 1-855-885-1555 with any questions you may have. For the hearing impaired, please call 1-855-885-1558 (TDD). If you are calling from outside the United States, please call 1-202-514-1100.