- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Dissatisfaction with a federal victims’ compensation fund is gathering as members of Congress prepare a letter outlining their objections and families of the September 11 victims plan a meeting in New Jersey.
At least 79 families have filed a claim for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, a spokesman in the Department of Justice said yesterday.
The average award is expected to be $1.6 million, before deductions for death benefits are taken. Families who accept the tax-free federal funds waive their rights to sue anyone but terrorists in the attacks.
On Sunday, a group of families and members of Congress gathered in New York to complain about the fund’s rules.
Interim rules for the fund, which were released Dec. 20, set “arbitrary limits” on how victims’ families should be compensated for lost earnings and pain and suffering, said Rep. Felix J. Grucci Jr., New York Republican. Unless these rules are changed, “many families would be left without a penny from this fund.”
Some families were upset because insurance payments, pensions and other death benefits must be deducted from the awards. One father, whose firefighter son perished in the attack, told the New York Post that when he read the fund’s rules, “it was obvious to me that not one single firefighter or police officer [family] is entitled to a dime.”
Mr. Grucci; Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican; and other members of Congress are preparing a letter for Department of Justice leaders, including Kenneth R. Feinberg, special master of the fund.
The fund’s rules are scheduled to be finalized by Jan. 20.
Other families say the compensation system is inadequate for victims with very high incomes and disregards the kind of awards normally awarded in lawsuits.
Many families “will prefer to sue the airlines or others unless the final regulations are changed to comply with the law,” said the Families of September 11, a nonprofit group in Great Falls, Va., that was created to “protect the interests” of surviving victims and the families of those who were killed.
The Families of September 11 will be discussing compensation and other issues at its first general membership meeting, scheduled for Saturday in Rutherford, N.J.
Mr. Feinberg addressed some of these issues when he released the interim rules of the fund Dec. 20.
“The regulations have three primary objectives in mind,” he said: distributing the funds consistently, swiftly and with as little disparity as possible between “higher-end claimant awards and lower-end claimant awards.”
Mr. Feinberg said the law requires that death benefits although not charitable gifts be deducted from the federal award. Thus, it’s possible, but unlikely, that a firefighter’s family that hypothetically received $1 million from death benefits would receive nothing from the federal fund, he said.
Regarding awards for victims with high incomes, Mr. Feinberg said the upper limit for computing awards was $240,000 a year, but that number “was not a cap.”
Families of higher-income victims “can come in, have a hearing, meet with the special master” and explain why their case should be computed at a much higher level, he said, adding, “and we will listen.”

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