When the VCF has made an award determination for your claim, you will receive a letter notifying you of the amount of your award. Please read this letter carefully. If there is any outstanding missing information on your claim, it will be listed in this letter. This information must be provided before the VCF can begin processing your payment.
If your claim has been approved for expedited processing due to terminal illness or significant financial hardship, we will begin processing your payment immediately after your award letter is sent, regardless of whether you decide to appeal the decision. For all other claims, the timing of your payment depends on whether or not you appeal your award:
- If you do not appeal the award decision on your claim, the VCF will begin processing your payment once the 30-day appeal period ends. Once the VCF begins processing the payment, it may take up to 20 days for the Special Master to authorize the payment. The payment then gets processed by the Department of Justice and the Treasury Department, which may take up to 3 weeks. This means your payment should be issued to the designated bank account within 3 months from the date of your award letter. This is a general estimate, and your payment may be processed faster.
- If you appeal the award decision on your claim, the VCF will not begin processing your payment until a decision is made on your appeal. The payment process starts once the VCF sends you the letter notifying you of the outcome of your appeal. Once the VCF begins processing the payment, it may take up to 20 days for the Special Master to authorize the payment. The payment then gets processed by the Department of Justice and the Treasury Department, which may take up to 3 weeks. This means your payment should be issued to the designated bank account within 1-1/2 months from the date of your post-appeal decision letter.
Additional information on appeals and hearings can be found in Section 4.
3.1 Receiving your Payment
All VCF payments are made electronically by direct deposit to a regular checking or savings account. Payments cannot be made to money market or brokerage accounts.
3.2 Payment Instructions if you live in the U.S.
Payment will be made via an electronic deposit directly to a regular checking or savings account. Payments will be made by the U.S. Department of the Treasury using the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) electronic payment system.
You will need to complete the “VCF ACH Payment Information Form.” You can download the form or you can call the toll-free Helpline and request a paper form be mailed to you. Complete the form by carefully following the instructions provided with the form, and upload the completed form to your online claim. Note that you must complete and sign Section 1 of the form and a representative from your bank must complete and sign Section 3. The VCF requires that a bank representative sign the ACH form to verify that the bank routing number and your account number are correct. Any missing or incorrect information will delay payment on your claim.
If you use an online bank, please contact your bank and ask about options for mailing or faxing the form to them. Your bank can also download a blank form and complete it on your behalf. You can work with your bank to determine the best way to complete the form. Please remember that a representative from the online bank must sign the form to validate the account information. Once the ACH form is complete, upload the form directly to your online claim.
3.3 Payment Instructions if you live outside the U.S.
Payment will be made via an electronic deposit to a regular checking or savings account. Payments will be made by the U.S. Department of the Treasury using Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) electronic payment system.
You will need to complete the “VCF International ACH Payment Information Form.” You can download the form which includes directions for completing it, or you can call the toll-free Helpline and request a paper form be mailed to you. Complete the form by carefully following the instructions provided with the form, and upload the completed form to your online claim. Note that you must complete and sign Section 1 of the form and a representative from your bank must complete and sign Section 3. The VCF requires that a bank representative sign the ACH form to verify that the bank routing number and your account number are correct. Any missing or incorrect information will delay payment on your claim.
If you use an online bank, please contact your bank and ask about options for mailing or faxing the form to them. Your bank can also download a blank form from the VCF website and complete it on your behalf. You can work with your bank to determine the best way to complete the form. Please remember that a representative from the online bank must sign the form to validate the account information. Once the form is complete, upload the form directly to your online claim.
3.4 Instructions for Payments made to Law Firm escrow accounts on a Claimant's Behalf
Many law firms that represent VCF claimants have an agreement with their clients that VCF payments will be made directly to the law firm escrow account on behalf of the claimant. The VCF expects that the law firm will disburse the payment to you within 30 days of the money being deposited into the law firm account.
If you are represented by an attorney and payment on your claim will be made to the law firm’s escrow account, your attorney will ask that you sign a VCF Client Authorization Form allowing the VCF to issue your payment to that account. The VCF requires that you sign the Client Authorization with an original signature and your law firm is required to maintain the original, signed document in their files. Your law firm will upload a copy of the completed form to your claim.
For Law Firms: please carefully review the “Law Firm Payment Instructions,” also available on the “Information for Law Firms” page of the VCF website, if your law firm has an agreement with the claimants you represent that VCF payments will be made directly to a bank account maintained by the law firm to hold and distribute proceeds obtained on behalf of clients of the firm. You must follow the specific instructions or payment may be delayed.
The online claims system includes functionality to generate a pre-populated PDF version of the VCF Client Authorization Form for each claim. When generating the form from within a claim in the online system, it will be pre-populated with data pulled directly from the individual claim. Effective December 1, 2022, the only version of the form that should be used by law firms is the version generated from the online claims system. The form can be generated, completed, printed, signed, and uploaded to the claim. Your law firm must carefully follow the instructions in order for the VCF to accept the completed authorization, including attesting to the accuracy of the information on the form, and maintaining an original copy of the form with the client’s original signature. The attorney representing the claim must also complete and sign Section IV of the form. The completed form should be uploaded directly to the claim in the online system. The complete instructions are included with the system-generated form.
Each payment made to a law firm bank account includes the claimant name and claim number as part of the transaction record. You may need to ask your bank to provide this information to you if it is not easily visible as part of the transaction detail. Payments for multiple individuals will not be grouped into a single transaction, although your law firm may receive more than one deposit on the same day. Your financial institution should provide the details to you for each deposit made to your account.
3.5 Changing your Payment Information
If you submitted a “VCF ACH Payment Information Form” and then changed your bank account, you will need to submit a new form (available on the VCF website) so the VCF has the current banking information for any future payments on your claim. Carefully follow the directions on the form and upload the new form to your online claim with a letter stating that it should replace the banking information currently associated with your claim.
If you submitted documents directing the VCF to pay your claim through your attorney, that instruction may not be changed once your claim moves to “Special Master Review” status in the online system. You may still remove or change the attorney associated with your claim for any future appeal or amendment. If your award is changed by that amendment or appeal and you submit new payment instructions, then the new payment instructions will apply to the payment resulting from the amendment or appeal and all subsequent payments. If you previously authorized the VCF to make the payment on your claim to an attorney and you remove the attorney from your claim, you must complete the “Change of Attorney Form” and submit the signed form to the VCF in order for the change to be made to your claim. Claimants should be aware that, regardless of how they receive payment from the VCF, they may continue to be liable for any agreement related to attorney fees as specified in the attorney-claimant contract.
3.6 Payment Instructions specific to claims for Deceased Victims
The VCF will issue payment on behalf of a deceased victim to the Personal Representative of the deceased individual. The Personal Representative, however, is not necessarily the person who will ultimately receive the award. This depends on the specific circumstances of the claim, the domicile of the decedent, applicable state law, the terms of the decedent’s will or other terms governing the distribution of the decedent’s estate, and/or any applicable rulings made by a court of competent jurisdiction. The Personal Representative is required to distribute the award in accordance with the law of the victim’s domicile.
If more than one individual has been appointed as co-Personal Representatives, please see Section 6.5 for important information about the documentation that is needed in order for the VCF to process the payment on the claim.
3.7 Split Payments
The Special Master will not split a VCF payment among multiple payees. For example, the VCF will not split a payment so a portion is paid directly to a law firm and a portion directly to the claimant. Attorneys who represent VCF claimants should have agreements in place with their clients that include details on the fees being charged and how and when those fees will be paid. Payments made by the VCF are paid only to injured victims or the authorized Personal Representative of a deceased victim, or the court-appointed guardian of an incapacitated adult. Although the Special Master will authorize payment to a law firm account with appropriate documentation signed by the claimant, the payment is made specifically on behalf of the individual.
3.8 Additional information regarding VCF Awards and Payments
- Tax information: VCF awards are not subject to federal income tax. See 26 U.S.C.§139(f).
- Bankruptcy proceedings: The VCF cannot advise you on how your award may be treated if the victim or recipient of the award has filed for bankruptcy protection. If a court has ordered that the VCF award must be paid to a trustee in bankruptcy, you must notify the VCF and provide the court order. An attorney may be able to provide more information based on each individual’s particular case. If additional information regarding the break- down of your award is needed for purposes of a bankruptcy proceeding, please contact the VCF Helpline.
- Medicare Secondary Payer claims: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) has determined that, pursuant to its waiver authority, it will not pursue Medicare Secondary Payer (“MSP”) claims against awards from the VCF under the VCF Act.
- Other government programs: The VCF is not able to advise individuals as to whether receipt of a payment from the VCF will affect benefits that the individual may be receiving from any federal, state, or local program that determines eligibility based on income or resources. Since each program is different and each individual’s situation is different, you should contact the relevant programs to seek guidance on how an award from the VCF may affect your qualification for benefits. Information regarding how the state of New York views the interaction between VCF payments and certain New York benefits programs is available.
- “Early payment” programs or advance loans: There are organizations offering accelerated funding for VCF victims. These types of advances, early payments, or loans using an anticipated VCF award as collateral, are not affiliated in any way with the VCF. The Special Master does not endorse any of these entities and cautions claimants to investigate any entity that they intend to deal with to attempt to determine if it is legitimate or is instead engaged in predatory or fraudulent activity. If you decide to work with one of these organizations to receive your payment in advance, your agreement with them is completely independent of your VCF claim and any agreement you sign is strictly between you and the specific entity.
- Advance benefits: The VCF does not issue early payments or “advance benefits.” Please follow instructions and submit a complete claim in order to ensure that your claim is processed as quickly as possible.
- Assignment of awards: Federal law prohibits the assignment of claims made against the United States unless done in compliance with Federal law. 31 U.S.C. 3727. Thus, the VCF generally will not accept or recognize any effort on your part to assign your claim or your award to someone else and will not pay anyone other than the claimant, the Personal Representative, or an authorized law firm as detailed above.
3.9 VCF claimants who file claims with the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund ("USVSST")
On November 21, 2019, Congress passed the USVSST Fund Clarification Act, which allows 9/11 victims, widows, and dependents – as specifically defined by the Clarification Act – to receive USVSST Fund payments, even if they had already applied for or received compensation from the VCF.
This is a legislative reversal of the prior statutory language under which some of these claimants would not be compensated by the USVSST Fund if they were simultaneously pursuing a VCF claim.
As a result, if your claim was withdrawn “with prejudice” from VCF2 so that you could pursue a claim with the USVSST Fund, the VCF will no longer enforce the withdrawal. Instead, the VCF will re-open the claim and move it back into the review process, with the priority date for review as it was at the time of the withdrawal.
Note, the VCF is required by law to offset any benefit paid by other collateral sources relating to the 9/11 attacks. As a result, USVSST Fund payments made to victims who are also eligible for compensation from the VCF, will be subject to offset by the VCF. To be clear, the VCF is required to offset USVSST Fund payments made on account of 9/11-related injuries to the same victim. If the VCF victim and the USVSST Fund claimant are not the same person (e.g., the USVSST Fund claim is because of a judgment entered for damages arising from the death of a spouse, parent, or sibling, even if the claimant is the same person), the VCF is not required to take an offset.
- If you have a simultaneous claim with the USVSST Fund and the VCF, and the VCF has not yet determined your claim, then the VCF will continue processing your claim to a determination and notify you of your award. The VCF will not be able to pay any award, however, until the total amount of your USVSST Fund payment is known. The USVSST Fund may continue to authorize payments through 2030, so you would not get any VCF award before then. See USVSST Fund FAQ 4.13 on the www.USVSST.com website.
- If you have a simultaneous claim with the USVSST Fund and the VCF, and the VCF has already determined and paid your claim, then please be advised that if the VCF award and any subsequent USVSST Fund payment are made on account of injuries to the same victim, the VCF is required by law to recoup the amount of any collateral payment made by the USVSST Fund to a victim, or victim’s estate or beneficiaries, that is received as a result of the same injury or death that was the basis for the VCF2 award. Claimants with prior paid VCF2 awards, accordingly, are required to notify the VCF (by submitting a Collateral Offset Update Form) of USVSST Fund payments made as a result of a victim’s injury or death if the same injury or death was the basis for the VCF2 award, whether or not the USVSST Fund payment is made to the same person as the VCF payment, and will be required to make appropriate arrangements to refund the VCF any amounts that the USVSST Fund has paid on account of the same victim, up to the total value of the VCF2 award.
For specifics on USVSST Fund eligibility, information on how to make a USVSST Fund claim, the time frame in which do so, or the way in which the USVSST Fund will treat VCF awards (both in VCF1 and VCF2), please consult the materials provided by the USVSST Fund on its website (www.usvsst.com). Please remember that you must inform the VCF of any new collateral source payments you receive, or become entitled to receive, after your claim has been filed – including after any award has been determined or paid – until the VCF closes on October 1, 2090. As stated in the VCF’s Collateral Offset Update Form, the notification requirement for collateral source benefits received subsequent to filing of a VCF claim applies to any payments that the victim, or the victim’s estate or beneficiaries receive, or are entitled to receive as a result of the victim’s injury or death in the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001, or the debris removal efforts in the immediate aftermath of the crashes.