If I am certified for a new condition by the WTC Health Program after my award was issued, or if I have a new loss, can I amend my application?
Yes. And you should! According to the VCF, you can file an amendment to your claim that adds a new condition or a new loss at any time before October 1, 2090. For example, let’s say you received an original 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund award in 2015 for COPD and asthma. Then in 2021 you are diagnosed with cancer. Hansen & Rosasco can then amend your prior 9/11 claim for additional tax free compensation. However, you may want to talk to an attorney about your right to compensation and how an additional ailment may increase your prior award.
Exposure to the dust cloud after 9/11 left many people with serious health ailments, many of which had a long-term effect on their finances and their ability to engage in normal activities. Filing a claim through the VCF can help provide much-needed compensation for the financial losses you experienced because of your exposure to toxic materials in connection with 9/11.
Some 9/11 health condition sufferers, however, may discover after receiving their award from the VCF that they have contracted another ailment related to their dust cloud exposure: a different type of cancer, for example, or a more serious lung ailment than initially thought. Can you amend your claim and seek additional compensation for that new condition?
Does Your New Claim Increase Your Compensation?
If you already receive treatment for your ailments through the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, which provides treatment for 9/11-related ailments free-of-charge for victims of the attacks, then you generally will not incur additional medical expense associated with a new diagnosis you receive that is also related to dust cloud exposure.
On the other hand, if you currently obtain care for a 9/11-related health condition through a private physician, such as if it would cause you hardship to seek treatment from a WTC Health Program-certified physician or if you live in an area where you cannot access a WTC Health Program-certified provider, then you may need to seek additional compensation through the VCF to pay for the additional care you need for your newly-diagnosed condition.
If your medical expenses rise due to your new diagnosis, then you can seek additional compensation from the VCF to pay for them.
In addition, your 9/11 related non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, may also increase because of your new diagnosis. The VCF will pay pain and suffering damages up to $90,000 for non-cancer conditions, and $250,000 for claimants with a cancer diagnosis. But, if you have already received the statutory maximum amount of non-economic damages from the VCF, then your new diagnosis will not entitle you to additional compensation. The VCF, in other words, does not pay more than the statutory maximum for pain and suffering, even if you suffer a new condition that causes you additional non-economic hardship.
Talk to the experienced 9/11 lawyers at Hansen & Rosasco to learn more about whether an amendment can increase your compensation, which would make it worthwhile to file an amendment to your claim, or if you have already received the maximum allowable amount.
How to File an Amendment to Your Claim
Your circumstances have changed. Due to a new diagnosis, such as a cancer diagnosis or mesothelioma, your exposure to the dust cloud after 9/11 now creates a much more substantial impact on your life as a whole. Filing an amendment to your initial VCF claim notifies the VCF about your changed diagnosis and seeks the compensation you deserve for the additional losses that the newly diagnosed condition will cause you.
In some cases, the estate of a 9/11 victim may need to file the amendment, if the victim dies before receiving additional compensation related to a changed diagnosis or claim. Consult with an attorney to learn more about whether you might need to file an amendment on behalf of a deceased individual.
Amending an Online Claim
If you filed your initial VCF benefits claim online, then follow these steps to amend your claim based on your new diagnosis or loss.
- Consult Hansen & Rosasco. Before you begin the amendment process, get in touch with an experienced 9/11 attorney to discuss how your new diagnosis has impacted you, including the limitations it has imposed on your life and any financial losses you may have faced because of the new diagnosis. An attorney can help you determine how much additional compensation you might deserve and whether you should file an amendment to your claim. In many cases, an attorney can also handle filing that amendment for you, or walk you through the process so you do not miss any critical details, to assure that your claim progresses smoothly.
- Have your new condition certified by the WTC Health Program. To seek additional compensation from the VCF for a newly diagnosed 9/11-related health condition, you will need to have your new diagnosis certified by the WTC Health Program. You can seek certification through the WTC Health Program directly, or, in some cases, you may instead present evidence of your new diagnosis through the Private Physician program, which will allow you to use a non-WTC Health Program doctor to have your condition certified. You can use the Private Physician program to certify your condition if, for example, using the WTC Health Program would lead to undue hardship. WTC Health Program certification or Private Physician process certification shows that you have a covered condition related to dust cloud exposure following 9/11. This critical certification allows you to seek compensation through the VCF for your losses and to seek treatment through the WTC Health Program.
Amending a Hard Copy Claim Form
If you submitted a claim to the VCF in hard copy, rather than online, then here is how to file an amendment seeking the full compensation you deserve for the losses you face due to your newly diagnosed condition.
- Consult your attorney. As above, make sure you consult your 9/11 attorney before filing an amendment to your claim. An attorney can help take a look at any new conditions you may face because of dust cloud exposure, determine whether they fall under the conditions covered by the WTC Health Program, and evaluate any compensation you have already received to determine whether you deserve additional compensation related to a new claim.
- Get your new condition certified by the WTC Health Program. If you intend to file an amendment related to a new diagnosis, then you will need to have that new diagnosis certified by the WTC Health Program. The WTC Health Program will review the new illness and determine whether it relates to dust cloud exposure. Often, if you have already sought compensation or treatment through the WTC Health Program in the past, you may already have a certification for another diagnosis, or the WTC Health Program might have identified the new diagnosis in the first place. In either event, certification of the new condition will be critical in establishing your eligibility for additional compensation.
- Gather your documentation. Talk to your attorney about what information you need to submit to file an amendment. You should not move forward with a claim amendment until you have received your WTC Health Program certification, since you will need to submit the certification letter as part of your documentation. You may also need to include your medical records and any other supporting documentation. You should not need to submit the documentation already submitted with your initial claim, including proof of dust cloud exposure and your involvement at Ground Zero or the “NYC Exposure Zone”, since you would have already provided that proof in connection with your initial claim.
- Have your attorney write a cover letter. The cover letter should request to amend your claim based on these new conditions, including how those conditions have changed and why you feel that you deserve additional compensation.
- Submit your letter and supporting documentation. Remember, it may take time for the VCF to process your claim amendment in hard copy. You should make sure to submit your amendment request along with your supporting documentation, since the VCF will need to prioritize your claim appropriately to process it as needed.
Do You Need an Attorney to Handle a VCF Claim Amendment?
No. Filing a claim amendment might go smoothly, if you have already filed a claim with the VCF in the past, have an open account, and have received the compensation you deserve for past injuries and losses. However, in many cases, depending on your condition, ensuring the maximum compensation and efficient processing of your claim requires having a skilled, experienced 9/11 benefits lawyer advocating for you.
A lawyer can help go over the reason for the amendment, including a new diagnosis, before you submit it.
In some cases, your new diagnosis might not change the compensation you deserve for your illness, especially if you have already received the maximum benefit for illnesses in your specific category. A lawyer can review your diagnosis and its impact on your life, to determine whether you should file an amendment to your claim. Keep in mind that if you plan to claim only non-economic losses, and you have already received the maximum benefit, then you will likely not receive additional compensation related to your claim.
A lawyer can ensure that you submit all the right documentation.
If you fail to submit the proper documentation with your claim amendment, then it can cause the VCF to delay your claim while waiting for that information. In many cases, that can mean you will not receive the compensation you deserve until much later than you might otherwise. Since, in many cases, 9/11 victims need the compensation they deserve from their illnesses as soon as possible, failing to submit the proper documentation can result in significant financial and personal challenges.
Working with an attorney can help your amendment move more smoothly while causing less stress.
Amending a VCF claim can require knowledge of how the VCF works and careful attention to detail. By working with a lawyer, you can gain peace of mind in knowing that someone experienced and knowledgeable has properly prepared and filed your claim amendment.
If you need to amend your VCF claim, or you have received a new diagnosis related to dust cloud exposure after 9/11 and need to know if you should amend your claim, then a lawyer can help. Contact an experienced 9/11 attorney to learn more about your right to compensation and how a new diagnosis may affect your claim.