In July 2019, President Trump signed the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act into law. This bill offers a long-term compensation solution to 9/11 first responders and survivors harmed by the events and aftermath of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. It does this in two main ways:
- The bill permanently reauthorizes the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) by extending the filing deadline to October 1, 2090.
- The bill creates a permanent funding plan for the VCF, allocating $10.2 billion to cover claims throughout the next 10 years, with additional billion-dollar allocations planned for the future.
Although the signing of this bill is cause for celebration, many Americans also recognize that it should not have taken 18 years to provide proper funding for these American heroes.
Following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress created the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. The fund compensated family members of deceased victims and people injured in the wake of the attacks -- both first responders and survivors. The fund initially ran for three years, with all eligible claims compensated by 2004.
Despite providing compensation to more than 5,000 families, the initial fund didn't account for delayed onset 9/11-related illnesses or injuries diagnosed after 2004. In 2005, legislators introduced a bill to extend compensation for these victims. However, they never voted on this bill. It took five more years and a new draft of the bill for Congress to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. This bill extended and financed the VCF for five additional years. In 2015, President Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act extending funds for another five years. Claimants had to file a claim by December 18, 2020, in order to receive compensation.
VCF Legislation Timeline
- 2001 - Congress created the initial VCF with a filing deadline of December 22, 2003.
- 2004 - The initial VCF closed after all eligible claimants received compensation.
- 2005 - Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Remember 9/11 Health Act to extend the funds. The bill never came to a vote.
- 2011 - President Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 into law in January after Congress passed the bill in late 2010, reestablishing the VCF for five years.
- 2015 - President Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act into law, reauthorizing the VCF for another five years.
- 2019 - President Trump signed the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act into law.
VCF Struggled on Capitol Hill
The lobbying efforts of first responder and victim advocates secured the program's renewal numerous times over the years. Together, 9/11 responders and survivors, victim advocates, several democratic Members of Congress, such as Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and celebrity advocate John Stewart worked for more than a decade to bring the continued struggles of 9/11 victims to the attention of those on Capitol Hill.
VCF Funding Ran Low
In February 2019, the VCF Special Master, Rupa Bhattacharyya, announced in her monthly status report that the VCF was running low on funds. Out of the $7.375 billion allotted to the fund in 2015, the VCF had just $2 billion left to cover victim compensation claims for the next two years. To stretch the remaining funds and cover the increasing number of claims filed, Bhattacharyya proposed a 50-70% cut to compensation awards.
This decrease in compensation awards inspired greater persistence from 9/11 victim advocates. Despite delays in Congress and concerns about financing the bill, the House of Representatives passed The Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act by a vote of 402-12 in early July. Later that month, the bill passed in the Senate 97-2. Six days later, President Trump signed the bill into law, forever solidifying financial support to the victims and heroes of September 11, 2001.