- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Victims and first responders from the 9/11 attacks are seeking reauthorization of a compensation fund to pay for their treatment of cancers incurred from the massacre.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) is running out of time and money. The $7.37 billion program is set to end Dec. 18, 2020.

The fund received a record 20,000 new claims in 2018 and 4,800 new claims were filed in January, according to a statement by VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya.

The VCF has doled out more than $5.137 billion in original and amended awards on more than 22,000 claims. That leaves about $2.238 billion of the $7.375 billion appropriated for compensating all current and future claims filed through Dec. 18, 2020. More than 23,000 claims and amendments currently are pending.

“Unfortunately, the situation the VCF currently faces is a difficult one,” Ms. Bhattacharyya said, acknowledging that claim filings have increased for several reasons.

“Given the funding already expended, and the increases in claim volumes, I have determined that there is insufficient funding remaining in the fund to pay all current and projected claims at the same levels as under current policies and procedures,” she said. “To that end, the VCF must make significant reduction in awards.”

Claims submitted on or before Feb. 1 were cut by 50%, while claims submitted after that date were cut by 70%.

Those who received $250,000 from the VCF for life-threatening cancers now get $125,000, said Michael Barasch, a New York injury attorney.

Mr. Barasch, who has represented thousands of 9/11 victims and first responders, said he has had 2,300 people since 2018 come forward claiming they developed cancer possibly from 9/11 toxins.

“The problem is that Congress didn’t put aside enough money,” he said, adding that he doesn’t blame the government because no one could predict the “explosion” of cancers and deaths resulting from 9/11.

He said that by establishing the VCF, the U.S. government took responsibility for falsely assuring the public that the air was safe shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

But Mr. Barasch anticipates hundreds more people will continue to seek compensation for their injuries from 9/11.

Timothy Casey of Annapolis recalled his initial confusion at the unusual quiet and emptiness of the World Trade Center train station that day. When a fire ball blasted above him, he realized he was in the midst of the terrorist attacks.

Nearly 17 years later, doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer and removed the upper left lobe of his lung. Now Mr. Casey, who has never smoked and has no family history of lung cancer, wants reimbursements for his treatments from the compensation fund.

Mr. Casey, other VCF advocates and legislators are pushing for H.R. 1327, which would extend the authorization of the VCF through fiscal 2090 and would allow claims to be filed through October 2089.

A congressional hearing on the bill is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 11 at the Rayburn House Office Building.

“This was nonpartisan toxic dust,” Mr. Barasch said. “And therefore, it’s only right that we have a bipartisan bill pending that would do the right thing and extend the funds because cancer doesn’t know about these deadlines and everyone’s immune system is different.”

Mr. Casey considers himself lucky: Doctors detected his lung cancer in its early stages.

He had a biopsy on Oct. 24 and didn’t have to undergo chemotherapy.

He applied for the VCF in November, and his application is pending.

“The statement that ‘We will never forget’ was the mantra as a function of 9/11,” Mr. Casey said. “If all of a sudden, they’re diminishing awards — first of all, is that fair? If you got sick early, then you get more money than if you get sick late? It’s a matter of being accountable.”

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