A Message from Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya
October 2, 2018
When Congress reauthorized the VCF in 2015, it extended the time for individuals to submit new claims – as well as amendments on existing claims – until December 18, 2020. The Reauthorization Act also directed me, as the Special Master, to periodically reassess the VCF’s policies and procedures to make sure that we prioritize claims for individuals who suffer from the most debilitating physical conditions, and that we do not exceed the $7.375 billion in funds appropriated to the VCF.
The VCF’s most recent periodic assessment, published in February 2018, shows us remaining within that appropriated limit. But, as I am required to do, I am monitoring our expenditures very closely, keeping an eye on the volume of incoming new claims and amendments on existing claims, and continuing to use forecasts from the World Trade Center Health Program and VCF historical data to project whether the current available funding will be sufficient. The VCF expended just over $2.5 billion in the two-and-a-half years since our 2015 reauthorization, and we have more than $3 billion in funding remaining with just under two-and-a-half years left to go. There is no immediate funding crisis. As some of you may have read in the press reporting that surrounded this year’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, however, there is concern among some groups that the VCF may run short of funding. An updated projections analysis, run using data as of August 31, 2018, suggests the possibility that, following current policies and procedures, the VCF may exceed its available funding prior to the currently designated program end on December 18, 2020, although I have not made any formal determination that funding may be insufficient. Accordingly, in both an abundance of caution and a steadfast commitment to fulfilling my statutory responsibilities, I am seeking public input on how the remaining funds might be allocated in a fair and equitable manner to claims and amendments that have not yet been decided, with priority given, as the Reauthorization Act requires, to those claimants with the most debilitating conditions. The Notice of Inquiry published to the Federal Register on October 3, 2018, is the official vehicle for gathering that input.
It is important to note that this is an effort to solicit information only. It is both prudent and consistent with my statutory responsibilities to begin the process of collecting your comments and suggestions for our careful and systematic consideration. As the Notice of Inquiry makes clear, should any changes to VCF policies or procedures be deemed necessary solely because there are insufficient funds to continue making awards under the same policies as are in effect today, any such changes would apply only to claims submitted or amended for compensation review after an established effective date. No compensation claim currently submitted for review would be affected.
Our website at www.vcf.gov and our toll-free helpline at 1-855-885-1555 are both excellent sources of information about the VCF’s policies and procedures, and we encourage anyone with questions to take advantage of those resources. The VCF continues to accept new claims – as well as amendments on existing claims for claimants who have suffered new injuries or incurred new losses – and we will continue to do so until December 18, 2020, under the current statutory framework.
The Notice of Inquiry provides an opportunity for all interested members of the 9/11 community to have a voice in how the VCF operates going forward. You are the individuals and organizations who have an interest in how we do our jobs and in the equitable awarding of VCF funds, and I am always grateful and appreciative of your comments and suggestions. Please take some time to review the Notice and the questions on which we are seeking feedback and provide your comments as instructed in the Notice. In doing so, you can help ensure that the VCF remains financially stable, and that we continue to do the best job we can to make sure compensation is awarded to those who deserve it in the fairest, most efficient, and most transparent way possible. Thank you in advance for participating in this effort.