Overview of 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) Deceased Claims
Sadly, many 9/11-health conditions cause the deaths of the individuals who suffer from them. The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund permits a “personal representative” of a victim who has died to apply for VCF benefits to be paid to the victim’s estate and distributed according to the victim’s will or under applicable intestacy laws if the victim died without a will. This is known as a deceased claim.
Generally speaking, there are three variants of deceased claims for VCF benefits.
- A claim on behalf of a victim who died without having ever applied for VCF benefits.
- A claim on behalf of a victim who died after having applied for and received VCF benefits.
- A claim on behalf of a victim who died while an application for VCF benefits was still in progress.
The amount and type of compensation a deceased victim’s estate may receive for each of these variants of a deceased claim generally depends on many factors the
The VCF benefits award on a deceased claim has two components:
- A personal injury award, which compensates the victim for the economic and non-economic losses caused by a 9/11-related health condition before the victim’s death; and
- A wrongful death award, which compensates the victim’s family for the harm they suffer because of the victim’s death, including their own pain and suffering and economic losses.
These awards are calculated separately. If a personal representative files a deceased claim on behalf of a victim who had already received an award from the VCF, however, the VCF only pays the wrongful death portion of the award on the deceased claim.
Skilled VCF claims attorneys can help families and the personal representative of a deceased 9/11 victim in filing and pursuing a deceased claim, no matter which of the circumstances apply to their case.
Limitations on Amendments of Deceased Claims
Living applicants for VCF benefits routinely amend their applications to update the VCF about new health conditions and diagnoses that entitle them to compensation. The VCF permits amendment of living applicants’ applications because it recognizes that 9/11-related health conditions can emerge and evolve.
That is not the case, however, for deceased claims. Once a victim dies, no new health condition will emerge. For that reason, the VCF requires applicants on deceased claims to submit all relevant information and documentation. The VCF generally does not allow you to amend a deceased claim.
To be clear, this does not mean that you only get one shot at filing a complete deceased claim. All applications for VCF benefits go through a preliminary review to ensure that they contain proper documentation and meet basic eligibility requirements before the VCF conducts a more thorough substantive review. You can amend a claim, including a deceased claim, at any time during the preliminary review process and while the substantive review is ongoing.
However, you cannot usually amend a new deceased claim once VCF has completed its substantive review. That is why VCF’s Policies and Procedures advise personal representatives filing a new deceased claim to “claim all losses and submit all supporting documentation before the VCF finalizes substantive review of the compensation claim.”
The prohibition on amendment once a substantive review has ended applies to all three variants of deceased claims. In any circumstance in which a personal representative has claimed benefits on behalf of a deceased victim, the right to amend that claim expires after the substantive review, subject to the exceptions discussed below.
In light of this limitation, personal representatives filing a deceased claim for VCF benefits should seek guidance from an experienced VCF claim attorney who can help ensure that they fully document the claim before VCF completes a substantive review of it.
Exceptions Allowing Amendment of Deceased Claims
The prohibition on amendment of deceased claims once the VCF has finalized its substantive review has a few exceptions:
- The VCF allows amendments to deceased claims of claimants who received an award on a deceased claim, and then filed an amendment, all before December 9, 2019.
- The VCF allows amendment of a deceased claim that sought wrongful death losses but was denied for lack of evidence showing that the victim died of an eligible 9/11-related health condition. Applicants can amend the claim to provide additional information proving that an eligible condition caused the victim’s death.
- If the deceased individual had a 9/11-related health condition that was not on the list of presumptively covered conditions when the VCF finalized substantive review of that individual’s deceased claim, the VCF did not award compensation relating to that condition, and the WTC Health Program has since added that condition to the list of presumptively covered conditions, then applicants can file an amendment to seek compensation for losses relating to the newly added condition.
- The VCF allows amendment of deceased claims to seek reimbursement for past out-of-pocket medical expenses the victim paid because of 9/11-related health conditions.
- Applicants can amend a deceased claim to add, change, or remove the personal representative on the claim, such as when adding a personal representative to a claim when the victim passes away after filing a claim and the death is not due to an eligible 9/11-related condition.
- The VCF permits amendment of deceased claims when the Special Master determines that not permitting the amendment would result in substantial injustice.
These are the only instances in which the VCF will permit the amendment of a deceased claim after it has completed a substantive review of that claim. To repeat, you can always amend a claim before you complete the substantive review.
To make sure you make all necessary amendments to a deceased claim, work with a skilled VCF claim attorney who has years of experience helping 9/11 victims and their families obtain the compensation they need and deserve.
How an Experienced VCF Claim Lawyer Can Help With Deceased Claims and Amendments
The VCF is an important compensation program for 9/11 victims and their surviving families. Like any federal benefits program, however, it has spawned a complicated set of rules and procedures that claimants must follow to secure the funds they deserve.
Skilled VCF claim attorneys work with victims and surviving family members to make that process as painless and efficient as possible.
In a deceased claim, a lawyer well versed in VCF rules and procedures can, for example:
- Guide surviving family members in how to obtain documentation from the WTCHP or other health providers to establish that a victim died of an eligible 9/11-related health condition.
- Assist in appointing a personal representative of the deceased victim who can file a new deceased claim or take over the pursuit of an existing claim (to which a deceased claim can be added).
- Prepare and file a deceased claim that contains the necessary documentation of the health condition from which the victim died, as well as any other documentation required to show the claimant qualified, and the appropriate amount of an award.
- Communicate with the VCF about documentation needed to substantiate a new deceased claim, or to amend an existing deceased claim before or after it has gone through a substantive review.
- Advise personal representatives and surviving family members on when and how to file or amend a deceased claim.
- Advocate on behalf of the personal representative to the Special Master, when necessary to avoid a substantial injustice in the processing of a deceased claim.
- Pursue appeals of adverse decisions from the VCF on a deceased claim.
In this post, we have covered the basics of deceased claims for VCF benefits, the general prohibitions on amending them, and the exceptions to that prohibition.
Here are the key takeaways:
- A deceased claim seeks VCF benefits on behalf of the victim’s estate. A deceased claim award usually consists of payments for the victim’s pre-death personal injuries, and the harm caused by the victim’s death.
- You can amend a deceased claim at any time up to the completion of the substantive review of it by the VCF.
- You cannot amend a deceased claim once the VCF has completed its substantive review, unless an exception applies. The VCF bars amendments post-substantive review because it should not be necessary in most cases—the victim has died and the scope of the claim is unlikely to change.
- Exceptions include amending a deceased claim after it was denied to supply information showing that a victim died of a covered condition, and adding or changing a personal representative to a claim already in progress.
- A skilled VCF claim attorney can help victims and personal representatives pursue the compensation they deserve from the VCF.
To learn more about filing and amending a deceased claim for VCF benefits, contact a VCF claim attorney today for a free consultation.