Since the 9/11 attacks of 2001, many people have gone through significant changes in their lives, including name changes. You may have chosen a name change for a variety of reasons. However, you may worry that it would make your VCF claim more difficult.
What should you do if your name has changed since the documents that support your claim?
Suppose, for example, that you used your high school transcripts to show that you lived and went to school in Lower Manhattan in late 2001. Your high school transcripts have your maiden name. Since then, you got married and changed your name to match your partner’s.
How does that impact your VCF claim?
Why Might Your Name Change?
Since 2001, you might have changed your name because of:
Many women, when they get married, choose to change their names to match their spouses’. In some cases, the new family may choose their name together, or the husband might change his name to match his wife’s. Marriage represents a huge life event that can result in the need to change your name to acknowledge your new family.
After 2001, your marriage ended. Many women, following divorce, revert to their maiden names rather than keeping their ex-husband’s name. The swap back to a maiden name can make it easier to move forward and get a fresh start with a new life, which many people find highly desirable.
If you got adopted following the events of 9/11, you may have taken your adoptive family’s name to enhance the appearance of a cohesive family unit. If your family adopted you after your eighteenth birthday, you may have found that name change even more important.
Some people choose to change their names simply for personal reasons. You may not have liked the name given to you at birth. It may have proven embarrassing, or you may have suffered through numerous mispronunciations or misspellings of a complicated name. Sometimes, people choose to change their names to reflect a fresh start, get away from their pasts, or mark a religious conversion.
Regardless of why you chose to change your name, however, the challenge remains: how can you file your claim with the VCF following a name change?
If Your Name Change Occurred Before You Filed
In some cases, your name change may have occurred well before you prepared to file your VCF claim. You may not have recognized, at the time, the diagnosis you would eventually face related to your presence near Ground Zero or in Lower Manhattan following 9/11, which means that you may not have known that you would need to prove your original name.
As you compile the evidence to support your claim, however, you will need to show proof that your name changed from the name on your supporting documents.
Step One: Collect Your Supporting Documents
In some cases, you may have supporting documents that show both names. If, for example, you have employment records from more than one employer from late 2001 and early 2002, and you got married before progressing to the second job, you may have documentation that uses your married name, which can make it easier to provide evidence of your name change.
On the other hand, if your name change happened well after 2002, you may only have supporting documentation that shows your previous name. Once you have collected your supporting documents, you will know whether you need to show your name change.
Supporting documents may include:
- School transcripts
- Rent records
- Mortgage or homeownership records
- Employment records
- Volunteer records, including records certifying your contributions through a specific volunteer organization
Step Two: Add Documentation Concerning Your Name Change
To file a VCF claim using supporting documentation that uses your previous name, you will need to provide documentation that shows your previous name. That documentation, according to the VCF FAQ, will need to show both your previous name—that is, the name used on your supporting documentation—and your new name.
You might, for example, want to use:
- Your marriage certificate
- Your name change paperwork
- Your adoption paperwork
- Your divorce decree and supporting paperwork
The documentation you use to show evidence of your name change may vary based on the reason you changed your name and how you changed it. However, whatever paperwork you choose should clearly identify your legal name change and when it took place. Provide that documentation alongside your VCF paperwork, and the documentation verifying your presence at Ground Zero or in Lower Manhattan during and/or after the attack. If you have questions about what documentation to use, talk to a lawyer.
As part of the paperwork supporting your name change, you may need to include a letter about your name change, indicating why you needed to include that paperwork and its relevance to your claim.
If Your Name Change Occurred After You Started Your Claim
It can take some time to file a VCF claim and receive the compensation you deserve. In the meantime, you may choose to change your name for any of the reasons already considered: you choose to get married or divorced, or you simply want to change your name for a fresh start. Now what?
Changing your name in the middle of a VCF claim will not impact your ability to get the compensation you deserve for injuries suffered due to your presence at Ground Zero or in Lower Manhattan following 9/11. It does, however, mean that you will need to take a few extra steps.
Step One: Collect Supporting Documentation Regarding Your Name Change
Make sure you keep up with the paperwork that shows your name change. You may want to keep an extra copy on hand or place a copy on file with your VCF paperwork to make it easier for you to keep up with that documentation.
You may need to show:
- Your marriage license
- An adoption certificate
- Divorce paperwork and the associated name change paperwork
- Name change paperwork, if you chose to change your name for personal reasons not associated with another major life event
In addition, you may want to write a letter (or, even better, prepare an affidavit) regarding your name change to include with the rest of your paperwork. This letter offers a brief note about your name change and your desire for your paperwork to reflect your new legal name. If you have chosen to work with an attorney to submit your VCF claim, the attorney can prepare and submit that letter (or affidavit) for you.
Step Two: Fill Out the Claim Information Resolution Form
The Claim Information Resolution Form will authorize the VCF to make changes involving your claim. You may choose to use this form for changing the attorney associated with your claim or adding an attorney to the claim. In the case of your name change, it will certify your desire to have your new name used on paperwork and communications regarding the claim, including, ultimately, the check you receive from the VCF.
Step Three: Submit Your Paperwork
As with any other submitting documentation submitted regarding your claim, it can take time for the VCF to acknowledge those changes and make changes to your claim. However, once you submit your paperwork, it will update your legal name in the system, allowing you to access that information under your current name.
Should I Change My Name While Pursuing a VCF Claim?
You may want to change your name amid a VCF claim. If you choose to get married, want to change your name during a divorce, or have another major life-changing event during your VCF claim, you may not want to wait for your claim to resolve before going through with the name change process.
Should you wait to change your name?
In most cases, changing your name will have little to no impact on your VCF claim if you have the help of a good September 11 lawyer. While you may need to submit supporting paperwork that shows your name change and, in some cases, the reason for it, you can easily add that paperwork and submit your claim just like you would have before your name change.
The VCF acknowledges that many people have undergone major life changes since the events of 9/11. It will not prevent people from pursuing compensation or slow down the process of receiving compensation based on a name change. If you change your name while filing your claim, you can still submit the needed paperwork. Your name change should not slow down the processing of your claim.
How Can a VCF Lawyer Help?
Many victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including those that discovered years after their involvement that they faced a severe diagnosis related to their presence at Ground Zero or in Lower Manhattan, already work with an attorney to manage their claims. You may find, for example, that an attorney can help provide peace of mind, that an attorney can make it easier to access supporting documentation related to your claim, t. Following a name change, you may find that an attorney can help make filing your claim easier, you claim will be decided more quickly, or that you may receive a higher award.
An Attorney Can Help Find Supporting Documentation
If your name change occurred long ago, you may not keep track of the paperwork citing your name change. For example, if you got married 15 years or more ago, you may no longer have a copy of your marriage certificate or the name change paperwork, which can make it difficult to prove your birth name and its connection to your married name.
An attorney can help access documentation supporting your name change. In addition, an experienced 9/11 attorney can help find documentation that will show your presence in Lower Manhattan following 9/11.
An Attorney Can Make Sure You Fill out the Paperwork Correctly and Completely
To receive the funds you deserve through the VCF, you will need to fill out all of your paperwork correctly and provide the right supporting documentation. Failure to provide the right information can and often results in a claim denial or, at best, slow down the processing of your claim while the VCF waits for you to submit the correct supporting documentation.
Even simply failing to fill out a form in full, including forms related to your name change, can lead to repeated requests for more information. By working with an attorney, you can ensure that the forms get filled out properly and completely the first time, which decreases the odds that you will have to go back and provide additional information.
An Attorney Can Handle Many Aspects of Your Claim For You
You have enough on your plate, especially if you must still deal with the impacts of illness associated with your involvement following 9/11. An attorney can take over many of the tasks associated with filing your claim for you, freeing you up to deal with the other important tasks in your life. Importantly, an attorney that is skilled in dealing with the VCF will ensure that your claim is decided quickly, help you evaluate to know if the award is correct, and to maximize the amount awarded. Many 9/11 victims find that an attorney provides valuable peace of mind while waiting for the settlement from the VCF to arrive. Contact Hansen & Rosasco, LLP to learn more!