If you were a responder, survivor, or personal representative who submitted a claim to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and your claim was determined to be not eligible for compensation or you believe the amount of your award was miscalculated, you may consider appealing the decision at a VCF appeal hearing. First, it’s essential to make sure you have an understanding of the VCF appeals and hearing processes, including the procedures and deadlines involved.
VCF Eligibility Appeals and Compensation Appeals
There are two types of appeals recognized by the VCF: eligibility appeals and compensation appeals. An eligibility appeal challenges the VCF’s determination that you are ineligible for compensation. A compensation appeal can be filed if VCF found your claim eligible and issued an award, but you believe the award was not calculated properly. It’s important to understand that a VCF appeal is different from a VCF amendment, which is how to claim new losses (i.e., diagnosis with a new eligible condition, a disability determination, or the death of a claimant) to a claim that has already been submitted.
Deadlines for Filing an Appeal for a Denied VCF Claim
It’s essential to be aware of the deadlines associated with the appeals process. Before you submit your Appeal Package, you must file an Appeal Request Form within 30 days of being notified of the VCF’s decision — you can only submit the request if you received the Form with your decision letter. If you fail to upload or postmark the Form by the date indicated in your decision letter, you waive your right to appeal. After you submit the appeal request, you must upload or mail your complete Appeal Package within 60 days of the date specified in your decision letter.
VCF Appeal Package
The VCF specifies that you must submit the Appeal Package in its entirety. Any information not provided at the time of submission may be excluded from the appeal. Similarly, the VCF Special Master may exclude documents if they were requested during the initial review process and submitted only for the first time on appeal.
In your Appeal Package, you should include:
- Documents that are relevant to your appeal
- The Pre-Hearing Questionnaire included with your decision letter
- A separate list of the papers that compile your appeal
- The Explanation of Appeal
It’s crucial to be very specific in your Explanation of Appeal concerning why you believe the VCF’s determination was incorrect and outline the issues you will raise at your hearing.
VCF Appeal Hearing Process
Once the VCF has reviewed your Appeal Package, it will determine the validity of your request. Hearings are not scheduled for denied appeal requests and any previously determined award will be processed.
If the VCF schedules you for a hearing, you will be provided with the date and time to appear. Only in extremely rare circumstances does the VCF allow rescheduling hearings and an appeal will be denied for failure to appear. If you are unable to physically appear, you can request a remote hearing in the Pre-Hearing questionnaire.
If the VCF allows you to appear remotely, your attorney will still need to attend the hearing in-person. In addition, any requests for an interpreter should also be made on your Pre-Hearing Questionnaire. There is no penalty for requesting either of these accommodations.
Unlike courtroom litigation, VCF hearings are not adversarial. There is no judge, jury, or trial. The VCF Special Master or a Hearing Officer conducts each hearing and they generally do not last longer than an hour. During the hearing, you can present testimony and the evidence outlined in your Appeal Package. You can also bring any witnesses you believe will help support your claim.
A decision will not be made by the end of the hearing — the VCF will consider all the evidence concerning your appeal, including your testimony, documents, and explanation. After rendering a determination, the VCF will notify you by mail.
Contact a New York City 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney
If you have been diagnosed with any form of cancer after 9/11, or any other non-cancerous eligible condition as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and believe that the VCF made a mistake in determining your claim, it’s important to act quickly so that you don’t inadvertently waive your right to an appeal.
Navigating the VCF regulations can be confusing, frustrating and complicated. It is best to have an attorney on your side who can fight for your rights and ensure that you receive the maximum victim compensation payout to which you are entitled.
The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorneys at the Dearie Law Firm, P.C. have represented claimants and their families in 9/11 VCF claims for over a decade. For a free consultation, contact us today.