9/11 victims face an uncertain future as funds fall short
9/11 Victims Compensation Fund is already showing signs of strain. Rupa Bhattacharyya, Victim Compensation Fund Special Master said, “I could not abide a plan that would at the end of the day leave some claimants uncompensated.”
With the fund already paying out more than $4 billion of its $7.3 allocation in compensation claims to eligible first responders and survivors since 2011, Bhattacharyya said that “I’m starting to get a little concerned” following her periodic assessment of available VCF funds to meet both the current and projected rate of claims for compensation.
Updated statistics reveal that as of Aug. 31, the fund had reviewed over 38,000 compensation claims from victims of 9/11-related illnesses. This year a nearly 28 percent increase over the roughly 30,000 claims it took in last year and had also seen a near doubling in the number of ‘deceased’ claims it received versus 2017. Given the fact that “there are diseases with long latency periods,” Bhattacharyya said, the demands on the VCF are only expected to rise.
The collapse of the trade center in 2001 sent a cloud of thick dust billowing over Lower Manhattan. Fires burned for weeks. Many construction workers, police officers, firefighters, and others spent time working in the soot without proper respiratory protection.
In the 17 years since, many have seen their health decline, some with respiratory or digestive-system ailments that appeared almost immediately, others with illnesses that developed as they aged, including cancer.
Since 2013, nearly 10,000 known cases of 9/11-related cancer have been diagnosed, a 3,800 percent increase over five years ago, and victims have also dealt with a broad range of asthma and respiratory conditions, gastrointestinal illnesses, and more.
The volume of claims has increased over the past year, with more than 8,000 claims filed in the last four months, Bhattacharyya said.
“This is devastating news to the thousands of sick and injured 9/11 responders and survivors who were promised, and have been counting on, being fully compensated for the losses they have suffered,” Democratic Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney and Republican Peter King said in a statement.
“Our bill would restore any cuts to awards, ensure that future eligible recipients are fully compensated, and make the VCF program permanent,” the lawmakers said.
Sen. Charles Schumer, Senate’s top Democrat said the fund was supposed to provide “peace of mind to those sickened after the horrific attack.”
“For too many, ailments and disease from exposure to that toxic airborne brew have taken years to show up, and as the need for the fund grows, the chance it may not have adequate resources to take care of our heroes is just unacceptable,” Schumer said in a statement.
Individuals located in the exposure zone between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002, are encouraged to register with the World Trade Center Health Program, capitalize on free medical monitoring and treatment for a condition linked to 9/11 exposure, and investigate their eligibility for financial benefits.