- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

A Senate panel today will consider a bill extending the time that survivors and relatives of victims of the September 11 terror attacks have to apply for compensation from a specially established federal fund.

Currently, the deadline for applications is Dec. 22, but there are fears that thousands of the injured and bereaved who are entitled to make a claim but have not done so yet may be shut out unless it is extended.

Bill Doyle, who lost his son, Joseph, in the World Trade Center and maintains an e-mail network of more than 6,000 survivors and relatives, said an extension of the congressionally set deadline is essential.

“I’m sure there are many families who — because of bad legal advice about their eligibility, or not knowing about the deadline or being tied up in legal disputes — will lose their right to claim if the deadline isn’t extended,” he said. “Wouldn’t that be criminal?”

Mr. Doyle estimates that as many as a third of those entitled to apply have not yet done so, although he notes that the fund’s administrators say they are receiving more than 180 new applications every week.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sens. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Charles E. Schumer of New York and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, is scheduled to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

If it passes out of committee, a Senate staffer told UPI, the sponsors will try either to get it to the floor for a vote, or to attach it as an amendment to one of the spending bills that the Senate must pass before recessing for the holidays. Either way, time is very tight.

Congress will likely recess before Thanksgiving, and if the bill does not pass this week, the deadline will have expired before it can be considered again.

Mr. Doyle says he has received e-mails from victims’ relatives as far away as Uruguay, India and Israel, inquiring about the compensation fund.

Though the application process is complex and drawn out — Mr. Doyle says it can take many months — the initial application form, known as a 1A, can be filled in by anyone in a matter of minutes.

“I send them forms,” he says of those who inquire.

“I tell them all, ‘Just get your 1A in,’” he said. “That way their rights [to claim] are protected.”

Those who claim from the fund waive their right to sue any U.S. entity, including airlines.

Mr. Doyle says a major factor preventing people from claiming in time is psychological. “Families are still grieving,” he said.

But some relatives are tied up in disputes about the administration of the victim’s estate. Only the administrator can claim on behalf of the bereaved.

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