9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Through The Years: A Comprehensive Review

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9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Through The Years: A Comprehensive Review
Flags for 9/11 victims on anniversary of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

9/11 remains one of the most traumatic events in American history. The tragedy scarred the country to the core, and victims are yet to heal despite efforts to compensate them. Congress established the Victim Compensation Fund to respond to the people affected by the tragic event. The Victim Compensation Fund was established on September 22, 2001, through an amendment to Public Law No. 107-71.

The primary objective of the compensation fund was to compensate individuals who encountered physical injury or representatives of those who died during the 9/11 terrorist attack, including those affected during debris removal. However, years later, people have wondered whether Congress intended to make the Compensation Fund a one-time event or if it’d be applied to victims of other terrorist attacks.

Men in protective uniforms and hardhats removing pieces of broken building during rescue mission after earthquake

Eligibility Of The Compensation Fund

To get compensated, there’s a criterion that you have to adhere to. Some of the factors that are considered in determining eligibility are:

  • Whether you’ve registered for the compensation fund within the prescribed timeline.
  • Whether you’ve withdrawn, dismissed, or settled any claims related to the 9/11 tragedy.
  • Demonstrate that you have a physical injury suffered from the 9/11 attack that a certified physician has treated.
  • An indication that you were at the site of the 9/11 tragedy, its environment, or the route used in clearing debris.
  • You must demonstrate that your injuries or condition has worsened if you’d received VCF1 or sustained another injury that wasn’t adequately compensated for.
  • If filing as a deceased person’s representative, you’ll have to demonstrate that you have the legal authority to do so.

If you’re uncertain of your eligibility status, you should consult a qualified attorney. You can also utilize this helpful page on the issues and any help you might need in claiming the compensation fund. In addition, a skilled attorney can also help with the registration process for the compensation fund.

Evolution Of The Compensation Fund

After its inception in September 2001, the fund was shut down in 2003. The fund was brought back in 2011 under the leadership of President Obama under the name Zadroga Act. The reactivation of the statute was to cater to the arising needs of first responders who had suffered long-term injuries. It had become apparent that most first responders had been exposed to toxins which had resulted in long-term illnesses such as cancer. Halting the funding had led to the death of most first responders without access to healthcare.

In reviving the fund, Congress stated that while the initial fund was to show solidarity and compassion for the victims, it also protected the airline industry. One of the requirements of receiving the compensation fund is that the beneficiary shouldn’t have a pending lawsuit against the airlines or any other players in the 9/11 tragedy. Protecting the airlines ensured that the airline industry wouldn’t be strained through different claims. In a sense, covering the airlines also shields the country’s economy.

  • Never Forget The Heroes

Establishing the Compensation Fund as a long-term concept hasn’t been easy. The fund was extended until 2090 through the Never Forget The Heroes Act. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously agreed on the statute that extended the funding. Though the statute met some resistance because of budgetary constraints, it placed it on the government and was passed into law by the Senate.

The concept of the Compensation Fund is to cater to the needs of the 9/11 victims up to the year 2090. In the bill on the fund, about USD$10.2 billion was released to cover the next ten years, with additional funding being progressively granted for the surviving victims and their representatives. Long-term funding has been a popular idea because it covers long-term conditions such as cancer incurred during the attack. In addition, the severely affected responders don’t have to worry about limited health benefits.

Major Milestones In The Compensation Fund

The major milestones to note in the Compensation Fund can be summarized as follows:

  • September 22, 2001: The original Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was created to reimburse the people who had been injured during the attack. The compensation was limited to the physically on-site people and passengers of the commercial planes that crashed.
  • November 26, 2001: Kenneth Feinberg was appointed to head the Victim Compensation Fund.
  • December 2003: The original VCF was shut down after issuing compensation amounting to USD$7 billion to more than 5,500 claimants.
  • January 2, 2011: President Obama signed the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 due to concerns that most first responders had suffered long-term injuries and conditions from exposure to toxins. The legislature ascertained that people who suffered circumstantial injuries by being in the surroundings of the sites of attack or working in rescue and clearance were also compensated.
  • May 18, 2011: Sheila Birnbaum was appointed to head the VCF.
  • December 18, 2015: President Obama extended the Zadroga Act by five years.
  • July 21, 2016: Rupa Bhattacharya was appointed as the head of VCF.
  • February 15, 2019: The special master proclaimed that the awards would be reduced because of inadequate funds in the VCF.
  • June 11, 2019: Surviving responders during the 9/11 incident testified before the House Judiciary Committee to support the extension of the Zadroga Act.
  • July 29, 2019: President Trump assented to the Never Forget the Heroes Act, which extended the validity of the VCF to October 1, 2090.

Criticism Of The Compensation Fund

While the Compensation Fund intended to help cater to the healthcare of the 9/11 victims, it has also been criticized. One of the issues critics raise is the Compensation Fund’s ideology. The concept that the fund was created to reimburse those injured during the terrorist attack raises the question of whether it applies to other attacks. If the purpose of the Compensation Fund is to repay victims of terrorist attacks, then it should be applied to all scenarios with similar circumstances.

Another primary concern is the strain it has on the public budget. The compensation fund is an insurance policy for people injured during the 9/11 attack and covers all their health concerns. Ideally, people are exposed to all kinds of dangers daily, and it’d be strenuous for the government to compensate for them. Moreover, the fund opens a leeway for misuse from people who might want to take advantage.


The 9/11 tragedy was a massive blow to many people, and the effects are still felt. It’s pretty challenging to come to terms with losing a loved one or experiencing a trauma caused by the event. This led to the creation of the 9/11 VCF whose main purpose is to help and compensate the victims of the tragedy.

Despite the goodwill behind the VCF campaign, it has also faced backlash and criticisms as some factions also want to protect the country’s economy. Because of this, the 9-11 VCF has gone through many changes and renewals and now the VCF is set to run up to 2090 when affected people and their representatives can make a claim.

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