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Section 3: Awards and Payment

Date effective
December 26, 2019

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 you appeal your loss determination, payment will not begin until a decision is rendered following your hearing. If, however, your claim has been approved for expedited processing due to terminal illness or significant financial hardship, we will process the payment while awaiting the scheduling and outcome of your hearing. Additional information on appeals and hearings can be found in Section 4.

Once the VCF begins processing your payment, it may take up to 45 days before the money is deposited into the designated account.

3.1  Receiving your Payment

All VCF payments are made electronically. The U.S. Department of the Treasury will only issue paper checks for claimants who live outside the U.S. and do not have a U.S. bank account.

The VCF can only make direct deposit payments 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 from “Forms and Resources” on the VCF website 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 printed on the back of the form, and mail it on the same day that you submit your claim. DO NOT upload the 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, you must mail the completed form directly to the VCF. DO NOT upload the ACH form to your online claim.

 

3.3  Payment Instructions if you live outside the U.S. 

Payment will be made via a check from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The VCF will contact you to provide specific instructions for receiving the check and to confirm the expected delivery date. Checks are mailed via a tracked service and the claimant must sign for the delivery of the check.

 

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 an authorization allowing the VCF to issue your payment to that account. This authorization must include certain specific information as outlined in the “Law Firm Payment Instructions” available on the “Information for Law Firms” page of the VCF website. The authorization must be sent to the VCF as an original document with an original signature.

For Law Firms: please carefully review the “Law Firm Payment Instructions” 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.

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 mail it to the VCF 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. The form is available under “Forms and Resources” on the VCF website. 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.

Note regarding payments on behalf of minor children: If any portion of the payment is allocated to minor children, the VCF may require additional documentation from the Personal Representative before processing the payment. The Personal Representative is responsible for determining the requirements of applicable law with respect to the distribution to minors and for adhering to these requirements.

 

3.7 Payment Instructions specific to claims for Minor Victims

If the victim is a minor at the time payment is issued on the claim, the VCF requires that the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of the minor complete the “Acceptance of Payment on behalf of a Minor Child” form. The VCF will send you this form to complete. If more than one parent or guardian shares custody of the minor, both individuals will need to sign the form. The completed form does not need to be submitted as an original and can be uploaded to your claim.

If the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the minor victim share joint custody, and if the payment on the claim is being made to a bank account that is owned by only one of the custodial parents/guardians, the parent/guardian who is not receiving payment must submit a signed and notarized statement identifying the parent/guardian who will serve as the payee for the claim. If the parent(s)/guardian(s) are represented by an attorney and have agreed that the payment on the claim will be made to the law firm’s escrow account, the authorization to pay that account must be signed by both parent(s)/guardian(s).

 

3.8  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 a parent or guardian of a minor victim. 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.

 

 

3.9  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 Zadroga 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 here.
  • “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.
  • Expedite process: In cases involving terminal illness or significant financial hardship, you can request that the VCF expedite the processing of your claim or amendment. The VCF considers “significant financial hardship” to include an imminent or pending foreclosure or eviction proceeding, utility cut off, or other similar circumstances, as demonstrated by appropriate documentation. If you would like to seek expedited processing of your claim or amendment based on a terminal diagnosis or financial hardship, you must contact the Helpline and upload any appropriate documentation to your claim. The VCF will review your request and notify you as to whether the request is granted or denied, typically within 48 hours.  If you are requesting that your claim be expedited, you should submit a complete claim.  This includes claiming all losses – economic and non-economic – at the time you submit your claim and request expedited processing.

Amendments on expedited claims: If your claim was previously approved for expedited review based on terminal illness, you do not need to seek approval for expedited processing of your amendment, but you must call the VCF Helpline to alert us to the amendment.  This is necessary for the VCF to track the amendment so it can receive expedited processing.  You do not need to upload another expedite request or additional documentation in cases expedited for terminal illness.  If your claim was previously approved for expedited review due to financial hardship, you must submit a second request and adequate documentation to support the request for any subsequent amendment.

  • 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.

 

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.  If you have a simultaneous claim with the USVSST Fund and the VCF, the VCF will not be able to pay your claim until the full value of the USVSST Fund payment is known.  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 victim are not the same person (e.g., the USVSST Fund claim is because of a judgement 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.

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.