The law that governs the VCF requires that, in order to be eligible for compensation, the victim must have suffered physical harm or death as a result of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks or the debris removal efforts in the immediate aftermath of those attacks. The VCF generally looks at the victim’s death certificate to see what is listed as the cause of death.
The standard death certificate form (consistent with CDC guidance) includes three (3) separate categories where causes can be listed:
- Immediate cause of death,
- Underlying causes of death (i.e., the condition that the immediate cause of death was due to or a consequence of), and
- Significant conditions contributing to death.
If a 9/11-related physical health condition that is eligible for VCF compensation is listed in any of those three (3) categories then, generally, the VCF will consider the death to have been caused by the eligible condition and will award wrongful death compensation. If the VCF-eligible condition is not listed, then we will need medical evidence that draws the connection for us, and demonstrates how the VCF-eligible condition resulted in the death. For example, if the death certificate states that the immediate cause of death was an infection – pneumonia, for example, or sepsis – then we will look to see if the VCF-eligible condition is listed as an underlying cause of death or a condition contributing to death. If it is, then, generally, the VCF will compensate for the death. If the VCF-eligible condition is not listed, then, generally, we will need additional medical evidence that draws the connection and demonstrates how the VCF-eligible condition contributed to or resulted in the death.
Note, however, that the VCF reviews each individual claim based on its own facts. For this reason, there may be circumstances in particular claims that support a change from these generally applicable policies.