Deadline nears for 9/11 health victims

CLOUDSOF911BY KAITLYN MEADE  |  The deadline to register with the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund is only a few weeks away.

Oct 3 is the last day for most people to register to receive compensation for a 9/11-related health issue, as established by the James Zadroga Health and Compensations Act.

U.S. Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, along with the Victim Compensation Fund (V.C.F. Special Master Shiela Birnbaum gathered Downtown at Silverstein Family Park in front of 7 World Trade Center, on Mon., Sept. 9 to publicize the coming deadline.

“I urge all survivors and responders who may be eligible for the V.C.F. to register by the Oct. 3rd deadline, so that they may get the compensation they deserve,” Nadler said in a prepared statement. “We can never forget those who we lost on 9/11 and we can never stop fighting for those who became ill or continue to suffer since those first fateful days.”

The fund is open to many people Downtown, even those whose health was not significantly impacted at the time — from first responders to area workers, residents and students who lived in Lower Manhattan from Sept. 11, 2001 to May 30, 2002.

For anyone whose health problems surfaced before Oct. 3, 2011, the deadline is almost here. The exception are those with types of cancer that were added to the list of 9/11-related illnesses last year — these patients have an additional year to register with the fund.

Despite registration of over 27,000 people, the response has not been as robust as could be expected compared to the estimated number of people exposed after 9/11, according to Kimberly Flynn of the World Trade Center Health Program’s steering committee and the director of the 9/11 Environmental Action group.

Flynn said the lack of participation might be due to confusion about the application process. She said some people were unaware of the difference between the V.C.F. and two other 9/11-related health systems —  the World Trade Center Health Registry and the World Trade Center Health Program.

The W.T.C. Health Registry was established by the city to track health problems in Lower Manhattan caused by the attacks, and is not a treatment or compensation program. The W.T.C. Health Program, on the other hand, provides healthcare for 9/11-related health problems, both physical and mental.

The Health Program was also established by the 2010 Zadroga Act, but enrolling in it is not the same as registering with the Victim Compensation Fund, said Flynn.

“What we are looking at is three separate programs with three different enrollment processes,” she said.

Additionally, the V.C.F. will not compensate for mental injury, only physical afflictions. It pays for treatment, medical expenses and even time lost from work due to a physical injury or illness. Those who have a lost loved one to a 9/11 related injury or illness can also register and make a claim on that person’s behalf.

Flynn said registering for the V.C.F. “simply holds a place for you, should you choose to file a claim in the future.”

There are two ways to register: online or by mail. The online registration can be completed at the V.C.F. website www.vcf.gov.

Applicants can also call 1-855-885-1555 to have the form mailed. The completed form must be returned with a postmark no later than Oct. 3, 2013.

“We worked very hard to get both care and compensation for everyone whose health was harmed by the W.T.C. Disaster,” said Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1 at the gathering in Silverstein Park. “If you are sick due to 9/11, it’s time for you to register. Be a good friend and help a friend make the call.”