9/11 Victim Compensation Fund

On September 11, 2001, the United States endured the deadliest single-day terrorist attack in its history. In the wake of this devastating tragedy, Congress created the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). The fund was designed to serve two main purposes. It protects airlines from a potential onslaught of litigation following the attacks, and it financially compensates victims who suffered physical injuries or the loss of a loved one because of the terror attacks.

Injured first responders and volunteers who aided in rescue operations and debris cleanup are also eligible to seek compensation from the fund if they sustained physical harm because of their time working at Ground Zero. By filing a claim, these individuals and families relinquish their right to sue any airline or other entity for the attacks.

The Initial 9/11 Fund

The initial 9/11 compensation fund ran from 2001 to 2004. During this time, the fund distributed roughly $7 billion to more than 5,000 families. The fund compensated approximately 98% of families who lost a loved one and nearly 2,700 individuals injured by the attacks.

Although many people consider the initial fund a success, the compensation program was not without its problems. To the surprise of many lawmakers and the fund's special master, the biggest difficulty the program faced was actually having people file an application. Just one month before the application deadline, only 60% of people eligible to file a death claim on behalf of a deceased victim had submitted an application.

For some, the filing process was difficult to endure during their time of grieving. Others, especially volunteers who helped in the aftermath of the event, were not aware the fund existed. Although Congress considered extending the application deadline, a surge of preliminary applications were filed in the last few weeks before the deadline, negating the need for an extension.

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The Zadroga Act

In January 2011, President Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. The new law supported first responders and survivors still struggling with health complications directly related to the terrorist attacks. The James Zadroga Act accomplished this in two ways: it re-established the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, allocating $2.8 billion to the fund, and it created the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program.

The 9/11 WTC Health Program was started to monitor and treat individuals exposed to toxins at Ground Zero following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The WTC Health Program is separate from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

However, because this law was enacted nearly a decade after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, filing wasn't a simple task for many first responders and survivors. To prove 9/11 fund eligibility, individuals filing claims under the new law had to prove they were at Ground Zero during the attack or the aftermath of the event. This was no easy feat for many volunteers and first responders due to incomplete record-keeping at Ground Zero in the wake of the attacks.

Who is Zadroga?

The Zadroga Act was named after Detective James Zadroga, a member of the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Detective Zadroga is considered by many to be the first emergency responder to die from inhaling toxins and dust at Ground Zero. Detective Zadroga developed a serious respiratory illness and passed away in 2006. Though some controversy remains as to whether or not Detective Zadroga's illness was related to his time spent at Ground Zero, the lawmakers who wrote the Zadroga Act believed him to be a true American hero.

The Zadroga Act Reauthorization

In 2015, President Obama passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. This new piece of legislation extended the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund until December 2020, allocating $4.6 billion to the fund. Additionally, the new legislation granted near permanence to the WTC Health Program by reauthorizing the program until 2090.

2019 Update

In July 2019, President Donald Trump signed the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act, giving permanence to the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. This 9/11 first responders bill authorized $10.2 billion to cover claims for the next 10 years, and it allots funds to cover claims through 2090.

2020 Update

Many internal aspects of the VCF have been delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, registration and filing deadlines have not changed.

Individuals must register with the program by July 29, 2021 to maintain eligibility to file any future claims. Once registered, individuals may file claims through October 1, 2090.

If you are interested in filing a claim with the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, we can help:

  • Visit our FAQ page to learn more about the eligibility criteria and filing process.
  • Consult our legal partners today and get assistance filing your claim.