9/11 Health Update on the Implementation of the 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization
As you know, after years of effort by the 9/11 community and its supporters, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act Reauthorization.
The Act, authorizes the World Trade Center Health Program for the next 75 years, ensuring health care and medical monitoring for 9/11 responders and survivors. It also extends the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for another 5 years and while providing additional funds for both programs.
While Congress left unchanged the core mission of both programs it did make some changes.
The major change to the World Trade Center Health Program is that it is essentially now a permanent program and will be available to injured and ill 9/11 responders and survivors to help them cope with their injuries for years to come, which should give them and their families peace of mind. The changes to the law that effect the program that were made do not directly impact the delivery of services, it continues to operate essentially unchanged and is still open to accepting 9/11 responders and survivors who have not yet signed up and who qualify to get medical treatment for their 9/11 injuries.
The law governing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund does have several changes that are designed to make sure that those who have received a determination on compensation for their injuries will now get the full amount of their compensation awards. They should receive the full balance of their award in the next few months, over a year and half earlier than what was expected.
For those that have not yet gotten a determination and are still waiting to be processed, the new law also provides sufficient funds to ensure that they too will get the full amount of their awards when they are determined. In addition, the new law provides that they will receive the full balance of their compensation when a determination is made; the previous process of receiving 10% of an award and waiting years for the balance has been done away with.
These changes in the law will require the Special Master to change the VCF procedures and regulations which will take a few months. In the meantime we understand that the VCF staff will be working on issuing the full payments for those that have received determinations already.
We wanted to share with you the statements recently issued by Dr. John Howard, the World Trade Center Health Program Administer and Sheila Birnbaum the Special Master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on the law’s passage and on the changes and how they may affect 9/11 responders and survivors.
As more information is available we will make sure to pass it along to you in the coming months.
Statement from the WTC Program Administrator John Howard, M.D., on the Reauthorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010.
I am pleased to announce that on December 18, 2015, President Obama signed into law a bill reauthorizing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. This includes reauthorization of the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program for 75 years, ending in 2090.
The very good news about the reauthorization is that you can be assured of uninterrupted healthcare from the WTC Health Program in the future.
What does the reauthorization change about the current Program:
While the renewal of the Program includes changes to some aspects of the Program, your medical monitoring and treatment benefits will not be affected.
Here are highlights of the changes to WTC Health Program:
· Provides an appropriation of $330M for FY 2016 and sets specific funding amounts for the first 10 years. Future increases are tied to the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers, and unused funds from one year can be rolled over into future years.
· Requires for an independent peer review of the scientific and technical evidence prior to adding a condition to the List of WTC-Related Health Conditions.
· Changes the deadline for the Administrator of the WTC Health Program to a
ct on petitions to add health conditions to within 90 days from 60 days to allow time for peer review.
· Requires a report to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) every 5 years to ensure program integrity.
Thank you for your continued support. I wish you and your friends and families a very Happy New Year. If you have any questions about the WTC Health Program, please call us at 1-888-982-4748 or email us atWTC@cdc.gov.
John Howard, M.D.
Administrator, World Trade Center Health Program
Message from Special Master Sheila Birnbaum – VCF Reauthorization
December 30, 2015
On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed into law a bill reauthorizing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. This includes reauthorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (“VCF”) for another 5 years, which will benefit individuals impacted by the events of 9/11 and its aftermath.
The new law directs the VCF to issue “full compensation” to claimants with “Group A Claims,” defined as claims for which a loss determination was issued on or before December 17, 2015, “as soon as practicable.” To carry out that directive, I have moved additional staff members to support the payment process so that these payments are made expeditiously without compromising the quality control measures that are so critical to our program.
The new law also requires important changes be made to the VCF’s policies and procedures for evaluating Group B claims and computing losses. Group B claims are those claims that are not defined in the legislation as Group A claims. The new law prescribes the funding available to eligible Group B claimants. I am working with my team to determine how the legislation impacts claimants and our day-to-day operations.
In developing new policies and procedures, we are also re-evaluating the documents required to submit claims (including claim forms and accompanying materials), the systems in place to file and review claims, and the information published on our website. I see this as an opportunity to review our claim forms, redesign our online system, and adjust procedures to meet new requirements and to increase efficiency.
I understand that you may be eager to file a claim if you have not already done so, or take action on a previously submitted claim. I ask that you be patient as we develop and implement updated policies and procedures that will carry us through the next 5 years. We will continue to provide information and updates through our website as those decisions are made.
What does the new Zadroga Act mean for you?
Our first priority is to make full payments on those claims defined as Group A as set forth in the new law. Given the almost 10,000 payments to be made and the process we must follow to ensure compliance with Department of Justice and Treasury Department protocols, we expect that it will take 3-6 months to complete these payments.
Funding to pay Group B claims will not be available until all Group A claimants “have received the full compensation due” or October 2016, whichever is earlier. As a result, we cannot issue any payment on any group B claims before that time.
Although our online claim system is still operational, we ask that you use it only to register or to upload documents that the VCF has requested for your claim. It takes time to make changes to the system and until these changes are in place, please do not use the system to complete or submit any new claim forms or to amend an existing compensation claim.
The VCF website is still available, but the full breadth of information it contains has not yet been updated to reflect the new law. This means that some of the information may not be consistent with the new legislation. We are working to remove any outdated information and replace it with updated content.
We are continuing to process and render decisions on eligibility claims that were submitted prior to December 18, 2015. If you receive a letter from the VCF requesting missing information for your claim, you should respond to the request within the specified timeframe. Eligibility Forms submitted on or after December 18, 2015 will not be reviewed until our revised procedures are finalized. If you have not yet submitted your Eligibility Form, you should wait for the updated forms and instructions to be published.
We are continuing to review compensation claims submitted prior to December 18, 2015 that have not yet had a decision rendered in order to determine whether any information is missing that may be relevant to the claim. If you receive a letter from the VCF requesting missing information for your claim, you should respond to the request within the specified timeframe.
However, please note that we will not issue any decisions until our revised procedures and loss calculation methodology are finalized. We expect to begin rendering decisions on these claims in the summer of 2016 and estimate the first payments for these claims will be made in the fall of 2016, once the funding has been made available. Compensation Forms submitted on or after December 18, 2015 will not be reviewed until our revised procedures are finalized. If you have not yet submitted your Compensation Form, you should wait for the updated forms and instructions to be published. If you filed an amendment to a claim before December 18, 2015, we will review your submission but will not issue any new compensation determination until we have finalized our new procedures.
Please continue to gather the information and documents that will be needed to support your claim so that you will be in a position to get that information to us as soon as possible after the new procedures and systems are in place.
We will roll out the changes in phases and will post on our website a timeline of activities for the coming year. Information on our website will be updated on an ongoing basis so please check the site frequently for updates.
I remain committed to ensuring transparency and fairness in this process and welcome your comments and input as we continue to implement the changes the new law requires. I am confident the short-term interruptions will lead to enhancements that will benefit all claimants over the next five years.
Thank you for your continued support. I wish you and your families a very Happy New Year.