WASHINGTON – The 9/11 terror attack compensation fund is quickly running out of money, causing future payments to be cut by 50 to 70 percent. September 11th Victim Compensation Fund special master Rupa Bhattacharyya said she was “painfully aware of the inequity of the situation” but vowed reduced funds would be paid out to every valid claim.
“I could not abide a plan that would at the end of the day leave some claimants uncompensated,” she added.
Almost 40,000 people have applied to the fund for people who suffer from illnesses related to them being at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or Shanksville, Pennsylvania following the 2001 terrorist attacks there. Currently, 19,000 of those claims are still pending.
Bhattacharyya also said that it would take $5 billion to pay out pending claims and future claims. Officials determined that pending claims submitted by 1 February would be paid at 50 percent of their prior value. Valid claims received after that date will be paid at just 30 percent.
Congress wants to take action. Democrats Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney and Republican Peter King released a joint statement, saying they will introduce legislation to make the temporary compensation fund permanent and to compensate all legitimate claimants. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also released a statement addressing this crisis.
“Cancer rates in the 9/11 first responder community are rising higher than ever, which means the VCF is more important than ever. We cannot tell them, ‘Sorry, we don’t have the funds for you.’ We cannot turn our backs on these heroes – not now, not ever. Remembering 9/11 should be more than a bumper sticker, and that’s why I will be reintroducing bipartisan legislation soon with Senator Cory Gardner and others that will ensure that the men and women injured by the toxins at Ground Zero are never forgotten.”
Claims filed from members of those who passed away from illnesses tied to the Sept. 11 attacks increased 235 percent since December 2015.
Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association, told NPR such legislation would be “doing the right thing for people who gave of themselves on 9-11, our worst terrorist attack.”
Fifteen FBI agents died of illnesses attributed to their post-Sept. 11 service and an additional 30 have illnesses related to their Sept. 11 exposure.
Bhattacharyya said the volume of claims has increased over the past year, with more than 8,000 claims filed in the last four months.
Reasons for the increase include the long latency period for some cancers as well as an increase in applications by people who lived or worked near the trade center but were not actively involved in recovery efforts, Bhattacharyya said.
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