How to File a Zadroga Act Claim
The Zadroga Act September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, or VCF, provides compensation for past and future earnings for families of people who lost their lives from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. You also can file for compensation if you or a loved one were injured in the attacks or currently suffer from a particular illness.
Thanks to the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, you do not have to be a member of New York Fire Department (FDNY) to apply. The Zadroga Act expanded the pool of applicants with a broader definition of “Responder” and also “Survivor.”
You or your loved one can file as a “Responder” if you participated in any capacity in the rescue, recovery, demolition, or cleanup at a 9/11 site: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa.
In addition to police, fire, and emergency personnel, others who may apply as Responders include:
- New York City, state or federal employees
- Members of the National Guard
- Sanitation workers
- Transit workers
- Cleaning workers
- Utility workers (such as from Consolidated Edison, or ConEd)
- Temporary workers
- Volunteers from a charity such as the Red Cross or Salvation Army
- Volunteers unaffiliated with an organization
If you were not a Responder, you or your loved one can file for compensation under the VCF as a Survivor. A Survivor is a civilian exposed to toxic chemicals and debris in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, and the months afterward. Survivors may include:
- People employed in that area but not as Responders
- Residents south of Canal Street
- Visitors in that area when the attacks occurred
- Adults in a day-care facility in the area
- Children who attended school or a day-care facility in the area
- People caught up in the dust cloud after the Twin Towers collapsed
You can file a claim online here. Those without reliable Internet access also can download a fillable PDF version of the claim form, or print out the claim form, complete it by hand, and mail it. Applicants also can request a hard copy of the form by calling the VCF’s toll-free helpline at (855) 885-1555.
What Documents Do I Need?
You can file a claim as a personal representative of a deceased individual, on behalf of yourself, as a parent or guardian of a minor, or as a guardian of a non-minor. You’ll need to provide documents to verify where the victim was on September 11, 2001, through May 30, 2002.
Those applying in connection with New York City as Responders or Survivors need to provide proof of the victim’s presence within the NYC Exposure Zone during these dates. (Please click here for a detailed map.)
Please note: If you or your loved one was an active firefighter working for FDNY on September 11, 2001, you do not need to submit any documentation with your claim form. VCF will obtain verification of that person’s presence directly from FDNY.
Also, if the victim received an award through the original September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (active from 2001 to 2004), you do not need to submit proof of presence to reapply.
All other claimants need to submit two forms of documentation. For Responders, this includes any of the following:
- Employer records
- Pay stubs showing work dates and location
- Union records
- Personnel or agency rosters
- Site credentials
- Any orders, instructions, or confirmation of tasks performed at a 9/11 site
For Survivors, documents may include:
- Employer records or pay stubs showing the date and location of employment
- A dated utility bill or lease
- Rent or mortgage receipts
- School or day-care records confirming enrollment
- A school transcript
Responders or Survivors also may submit these documents to verify the victim’s presence:
- Medical records documenting treatment as a result of injury that occurred at the crash site
- Any sworn and notarized affidavits, or unsworn statements complying with federal law, from anyone who can attest to the victim’s presence at the site between the relevant dates
As part of the claim process, you or your loved one also must have an injury or physical condition that the World Trade Center Health Program covers and recognizes as related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. You cannot apply for compensation if you do not have any symptoms.
These conditions include:
- Acute traumatic injury, such as head trauma, burns, complex sprains, and fractures
- Aerodigestive disorders, such as asthma, interstitial lung diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic cough syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), or related sleep apnea
- Musculoskeletal disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and low back pain (applies to Responders only)
Click here for a full list of related conditions.
If any injuries or physical condition has already been certified by a WTC Health Program physician, no proof of injury is required. However, if the victim is not already covered under the WTC Health Program, the VCF will need additional information from your private physician.
When Will a Decision Be Made on My Claim?
The VCF says that on average, it expects to issue an award determination within 18 months of a claim being submitted with all required information.
That said, some claims from 2015 and 2016 are on hold because of missing information or information needed from a third-party entity. These older claims take priority in the evaluation process. Other claims are reviewed in “first in, first out” order.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Although you are not required to have a lawyer to file a claim, many claimants choose to be represented by an attorney. A lawyer can help you and your family gather the necessary documents to support your claim and register it properly before the 2020 deadline.
A lawyer also can review your award notice for accuracy and advocate for how your compensation should be determined.
Most important, a lawyer can focus on the claim process so that you and your family can focus on health and recovery. Under the Zadroga Act, an attorney’s fee is capped at 10 percent.
Edward Marcowitz and the Marcowitz Law Firm feel a unique responsibility in serving those who were injured by toxic exposures from the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath. Mr. Marcowitz is honored and proud to serve as the personal attorney for the family of late NYPD Detective James Zadroga, for whom the Zadroga Act is named, and he’s also spearheaded pro bono efforts on behalf of New York City firefighters injured in connection with these attacks and their families.
If you have questions about how to file a claim, we’re glad to assist you. Please call us or contact us online now.