Soaring 9/11 health claims force cutback of compensation
NEW YORK: The $7.4 billion fund for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks faces a sharp surge in claims and will cut back individual payouts by as much as 70 percent, the fund’s manager announced Friday.
Rupa Bhattacharyya, the special master running the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, said it has already paid out about $5 billion for 21,000 claims by people who suffered injuries or losses, or who later came down with diseases such as cancer that resulted from the Al-Qaeda attack.
But a recent surge in claims ahead of the December 2020 end of the fund has made clear that they cannot be honored in full, she said, forcing them to make only partial payouts of half or even just 30 percent of what claimants deserve.
“The VCF is an extraordinarily successful program,” Bhattacharyya said.
But claims have increased “dramatically” and the fund does not have sufficient funding.
Since October, when the looming shortfall became public, claims have rocketed, taking the backlog to 20,000.
And they expect “thousands” more claims to be filed before the December 2020 deadline.
To meet them, she said, the fund needs another $5 billion, which Congress has yet to agree to.
“We are painfully aware of the unfairness of this plan,” she said of the cutbacks.
“I sincerely regret that I made a promise that I cannot keep,” she said.
The program was organized by the government to compensate for economic losses, injuries, family deaths, and illnesses arising from the attacks, in which Al-Qaeda operatives flew two passenger jets into New York’s World Trade Center towers, a third jet into the Pentagon in Washington, and crashed a fourth jet in a field in Pennsylvania.
Nearly three thousand people were killed immediately in the attacks. Thousands more, especially among emergency responders, have been sickened by exposure to toxins released in the World Trade Center collapse and fires, and from the clean-up afterward, with multiple cancers linked to the exposure.
So far, 8,000 cancer-related claims have been accepted.
In recent months, there has also been a jump in survivor claims from the families of people whose deaths can be tied to the attacks.