Deadline Déjà Vu for Comp Fund

It is simply human nature, indicated the director of a Washington-based victim-support organization, for people to put off taking action until a deadline looms. Just look at the tax-filing ordeal many put themselves through every April. So it was no wonder, she concluded, that until the compensation fund deadline was imminent, the response was lower than authorities expected.

She commented about this in December 2003, just before the deadline for filing claims under the first 9/11 victims compensation fund. But she could just have well have said it in September 2013, as the October 3 deadline neared for registering under the current 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).

In mid-September, it was reported that although over 27,000 people had registered under the fund, the number represented an unexpectedly low proportion of the hundreds of thousands of people who were potentially exposed to 9/11 health hazards. As New York City and the nation marked the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, elected officials joined Victim Compensation Fund Special Master Sheila Birnbaum to publicize the approaching cut-off date and encourage victims and their friends and families to take action before it was too late.

According to Kimberly Flynn of the World Trade Center Health Program’s steering committee, some victims may have been confused by the need to register separately for various programs available to 9/11 victims:

- The Victim Compensation Fund, which originally closed in 2004, was reopened under the 2010 James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to provide monetary compensation to victims in lieu of individual lawsuits.

- The World Trade Center Health Program, also established under the Zadroga Act, offers healthcare and treatment for 9/11-related physical and mental ailments.

- The World Trade Center Health Registry was established by the City of New York to track the health effects of the attacks in Lower Manhattan.

Note that the deadline for VCF registration applies only to those who knew or reasonably should have known about their 9/11-related injuries by October 3, 2011. Injuries discovered after that date continue to have a two-year window from the time of the discovery, ending in 2016.