A Comprehensive Guide of the Zadroga Act

Nov 19, 2019 | Class Actions, Mass Torts

Who is James Zadroga?

A Comprehensive Guide of the Zadroga Act: James Zadroga was an NYPD (New York City Police Department) officer who died on 5th January 2006 of a respiratory illness linked to his involvement in rescue and recovery operations at the WTC (World Trade Center) site following the 11th September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Zadroga was the first individual whose death was officially recognized as being caused by exposure to toxic chemicals and materials at the 9/11 attack sites. 

Since joining the NYPD in 1992, Zadroga had risen in rank and become a Detective. He wasn’t a smoker and had no previous history of respiratory conditions. However, he developed a cough weeks after spending over 450 hours assisting in the 9/11 recovery efforts at the WTC site. 

After a few months, he developed other symptoms such as shortness of breath to the extent of being unable to walk over 100 feet without stopping and gasping for air. 

In 2004, Zadroga received a monetary settlement of approximately $1 million from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The settlement was awarded after it was determined that his exposure at Ground Zero was the cause of his respiratory disease. Zadroga also retired in 2004 after his application for permanent disability retirement was approved by the NYPD medical board. 

James Zadroga inspired an Act named after him (The James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act) or Zadroga Act, which set the basis for the September 11th VCF (Victim Compensation Fund) and the WTC health program which were both reauthorized in 2015. 

James Zadroga Act Background

In accordance with Title IV Public Law 107-42 (Air Transportation Safety & System Stabilization Act), the September 11th VCF (Victim Compensation Fund) of 2001 was opened for claims from 21st December 2001 to 22nd December 2003. 

The VCF offered compensation to individuals who were injured because of terrorist-related aircraft crashes on 9/11. The Fund also compensated representatives of those who perished because of the crashes. The Fund was managed as per interim financial regulations issued on 21st December 2001 and final regulations issued on 13th March 2002. 

In its 2 years of operation, the VCF managed to distribute over $7.049B to 2,880 individuals killed by the 9/11 attacks and 2,680 individuals injured during the attacks or in rescue efforts following the attacks. In 2004, a report discussing how the VCF was administered was issued by Special Master Feinberg, who had been appointed by the A.G. to administer the Fund.  

Zadroga Act Summary

James Zadroga 911 Health & Compensation Act (Public law 111-347, or the Zadroga Act) of 2010 was signed into law on 2nd January 2011 by President Obama. 

Tile I of the Act established a special program in the Department of Health & Human Services to offer medical monitoring and treatment to eligible individuals.

Title II reopened the VCF and made amendments to the Air Transportation Safety & System Stabilization Act. Title II also introduced new filing deadlines, new beneficiary categories, put a cap on total awards payable by the fund, and limited attorney fees for awards under the fund.  

The Zadroga Act didn’t have administrative funds for the VCF to start accepting and processing claims. On 15th April, President Obama signed Public Law 112-10 into law (the continuing budget resolution), permitting the VCF to draw Zadroga Act funds and use the funds to pay for administrative expenses from 1st October 2011. 

On 18th December 2015, Public Law 114-113 was signed into law to reauthorize the Zadroga Act – extend the time period where eligible claimants submitted claims. The Reauthorized Zadroga act increases the time it takes for claimants to submit claims. 

The Act also increases the VCF’s total funding for paying claims and creating different claims categories. The Reauthorized Zadroga Act also instructs the VCF to implement policy and procedural changes used in evaluating and processing claims.  

Zadroga Act Reauthorization

The original VCF run from 2001 to 2004. On 2nd January 2011, President Obama signed the James Zadroga 9 11 compensation Act. Title II of this Act reactivated the Victim Compensation Fund in October 2011. The fund was authorized for five years (ending October 2016). 

On 18th December 2015, President Obama signed a bill reauthorizing the James Zadroga Act of 2010.  The new law extended the Victim Compensation Fund for another five years (until 18th December 2020).  9/11 terror attack victims could now submit claims until 18th December 2020. The law had important VCF policy and procedural changes for assessing claims and calculating loss. Some of the notable changes include:

  1. A cap on non-economic loss resulting from cancer at $250,000
  2. A cap on non-economic loss that isn’t cancer-related at $90,000
  3. Instructions to the VCF Special Master (VCF administrator) to prioritize claims originating from victims who are seen to have the most debilitating physical conditions
  4. A cap on Annual Gross Income or AGI at $200,000 per year of loss
  5. Removal of the minimum Zadroga Act award of $10,000

VCF Permanent Authorization Act

On 29th July 2019, President Donald Trump signed H.R 1327 into law – the Zadroga Reauthorization Act extending the VCF claim filing deadline to 1st October 2090. The law also appropriates funds to pay approved claims as may be deemed necessary. 

Zadroga act statute of limitations

Who is eligible for Zadroga act?

Victims of 9/11 attacks can file a claim. Alternatively, a parent, guardian, or representative can file a claim on behalf of a victim, whether the victim is alive or deceased. To enjoy benefits under the Zadroga Act & the VCF, three main requirements must be met based on location, data, and condition.  

a. Location requirements

9/11 victims who are eligible for compensation must meet location requirements. The victim location must be established on the day of the attacks, as well as the following months. To be eligible for compensation, 9/11 survivors or deceased victims must have been within (worked, lived or attended school/day-care facilities) within a specific location – NYC Exposure Zone

This zone includes several NYC neighborhoods, namely; SoHo, Tribeca, Chinatown, Lower East Side, Battery Park, Bowling Green, and Greenwich Village. The exposure zone also encompasses areas along/related to routes used in the removal/transportation of debris from the attack site. 

Victims who were present at/around other 9/11 sites on the day of the attacks i.e., the Pentagon or Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, Pa, also meet the location requirements.

b. Date requirements

To be eligible for compensation as per the Zadroga Act and 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, victims also need to prove they were within the NYC Exposure Zone or any of the other sites on one or more dates between 11th September 2001 and 30th May 2002.

Important: victims who were firefighters from the New York City fire department with respect to the above timelines are exempt from this requirement. Date verification on such victims can be obtained directly by the VCF. The same applies to victims who received awards via the original 9/11 VCF active between 2001 and 2004. Such victims don’t need to resubmit date proof to reapply. 

Other claimants omitted by the above requirement must submit written proof establishing a presence within the exposure zone or other sites during the attacks through to 30th May 2002. 

Examples of proof include but aren’t limited to:

  1. Employment records like pay stubs showing a victim’s work dates, location, union records or official roster/site credentials (like Salvation Army or Red Cross rosters)
  2. Utility bills, leases, mortgage or rent receipts showing a victim’s workplace or residence within the NYC exposure zone during the applicable time frame
  3. Daycare or school records for children and adults confirming attendance or enrollment during the applicable time period
  4. Instructions, orders, or confirmation of tasks a victim performed on the 9/11 terrorist attack sites or within the NYC exposure zone.
  5. Health or medical records showing treatment directly linked to injuries suffered at the 9/11 terrorist attack sites.
  6. Notarized affidavits, sworn affidavits, and/or unsworn statements in compliance with federal law from any individual attesting to a victim’s presence in the NYC exposure zone or other sites during the applicable dates.

c. Condition requirements

The Zadroga Act established the WTC Health Program, which treats and monitors specific physical and mental conditions resulting from exposure to the 9/11 terror attacks. The Act also covers associated conditions relating to treatment or progression of such conditions.

Important: If a claimant’s physical conditions or injuries have already been approved by a physician in the WTC Health Program, such a claimant doesn’t need to provide any proof of injury. Victims who lack coverage under the World Trade Center program must provide the VCF with additional information via a private physician packet.

When applying for compensation, victims don’t need to prove their physical condition or injury is related to the attacks. However, they must have symptoms related to any condition/s covered under the WTC health program. 

What conditions are covered under Zadroga act? 

Conditions covered include, but aren’t limited to;

  1. Cancer: In case you are wondering what cancers have been covered by the Zadroga Act, cancer of the blood, respiratory system, eyes, thyroid, digestive system, urinary system, breast, head and neck, skin, female reproductive organs and lymphoid tissue (including leukemia, myeloma, and lymphoma) are all covered. Mesothelioma is also covered – cancer that affects the tissue layer covering many internal organs, among other rare cancers. In total, the Zadroga act covers over 70 types of cancers
  2. Acute traumatic injury: Burns, head trauma, fractures, and complex sprains are also covered 
  3. Aerodigestive Disorders: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, interstitial lung diseases, asthma, chronic cough syndrome, GERD or sleep apnea linked to any of these conditions 
  4. Musculoskeletal disorders: First responders who suffer from lower back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome are also covered. 

Here’s a more conclusive list of illnesses covered under the Zadroga act. 

If you/a loved one is suffering from a 9/11-related physical injury or illness, there is more time to seek compensation for lost wages in the past and future under the Zadroga Act. However, claimants must register with the VCF on or before 1st October 2090. 

Can you seek compensation for a condition diagnosed years ago?

Yes. You can still file a claim even if you or a loved one was diagnosed with a condition years ago. Even if a victim hasn’t sought treatment via the WTC health program, the VCF is still open to receiving and evaluating new claims for compensation. 

I have received treatment under the WTC program. Do I qualify for compensation under the VCF?

The Zadroga Act established a health program – WTC health program, which monitors and treats victims of the 9/11 attacks with injuries and related illnesses at Zero cost. However, patients of this program don’t automatically qualify for VCF compensation. WTC health program participation isn’t a requirement for filing VCF compensation claims.

How to file a VCF claim

The Zadroga Act gives 9/11 victims and their representatives the right to file compensation claims with the VCF. The Fund has a simplified claim form, among other documents needed for processing Zadroga claims. Deceased, personal injury, compensation, and eligibility claim forms, as well as the private physician packet, are all combined into one simplified form making claim submissions easier.

The no. of documents needed to process a claim has also been reduced. The claim form signature page has replaced former Attestations as well as certifications A-1 & Part X. The VCF also has a better document checklist that is easy to follow. It’s easier to identify the supporting documents needed for a claim to be processed. 

Victim vs. Claimant

The claim form has the terms claimant and victim used throughout. A claimant is the individual filing a claim to seek compensation on behalf of a victim. The victim, in this case, is the individual who suffered/suffers from an illness or injury because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

Important: For a claim to be reviewed and processed, you must submit the compensation and eligibility portions. 

Filing a claim online

Zadroga Act application can be filed online, although there is a hard copy form. The VCF encourages online submissions via the online claim system. The system can be used to:

  1. Register an account with the VCF to preserve your right to file a new claim anytime in the future
  2. Complete and submit a claim form
  3. File amendments to previously submitted claims as per the guidelines
  4. Upload supporting claim documents
  5. View correspondence with the VCF
  6. Update contact information, among other information such as authorized representative or attorney information.
  7. Review the information provided when completing a claim form.

The VCF has gone as far as creating a navigation tip sheet that offers valuable information on navigating the online claim system. The VCF also offers information on un-submitted claims filled in partially using the previous system.  

Can you file a hard copy claim form?

Zadroga claims can be filed online or offline. If you don’t have reliable internet, you can file a claim offline by using these steps:

  1. Download the hard copy PDF claim form version, print it, complete it, and mail it. 
  2. The hard copy claim form can be completed by hand. If you don’t have a printer, you can request the VCF to mail you the hard copy form by calling the toll-free VCF helpline: 1 855 1555

Zadroga Act FAQs

1. Zadroga act definition: What is the Zadroga Act? What is the Zadroga law?

The Zadroga Act can be defined as a United States law offering health monitoring and financial help to the volunteers, first responders, and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The act is named after the late James Zadroga, an NYPD detective whose death was the first to be linked to exposure to the WTC site. The Zadroga Act funds and creates a program for offering medical treatment to 9/11 survivors and responders who have health complications related to the 9/11 terror attacks.

2. What is the Zadroga fund?

The Zadroga fund (also known as Victim Compensation Fund or VCF) was created to compensate victims or representatives of deceased victims who were killed or suffered physical harm because of the 9/11 attacks or during the rescue and recovery efforts after the attacks. 

3. Zadroga Act funding: What is happening to the Zadroga Act?

On 15th February this year (2019), the VCF administrator found the funding remaining in the VCF to be insufficient to pay projected and pending claims under the current fund policies and procedures. The Special Master also announced modifications to the fund’s policies. Pending claims and new claims were cut by 50% and 70%, respectively.

On 11th June 2019, John Stewart demanded additional funding while testifying before the Judiciary Committee. On 12th June 2019, the committee passed a bill permanently reauthorizing the VCF. The signing of the VCF Permanent Authorization Act on 29th July 2019 by President Trump means the Zadroga Act funding will be available permanently. 

4. Did they fund the Zadroga Act?

Yes. When President Trump extended the Zadroga Act renewal to 1st October 2090, he automatically extended funding permanently. 

5. When was the Zadroga bill passed?

The Zadroga bill passed in 2010. It was signed into law on 2nd January 2011. 

6. Was the Zadroga act passed? Did the Zadroga Act ever pass in congress?

Yes. The initial bill was co-sponsored by Representative Carolyn Maloney and Senator Bob Menendez in 2006. However, the bill failed to pass. However, in 2010, a different version of the original bill passed both chambers and was signed into law by President Obama on 2nd January 2011. 

7. My illness wasn’t covered before. When should I file a VCF claim?

The VCF has revised registration details several times over the years. For instance, rare cancers have been added into the VCF list of related conditions. This has created confusion in the past on what victims (alive or deceased) are supposed to do if they were affected by conditions that weren’t covered previously.

The VCF recognizes such cases and accepts such claims progressively. Anyone who hasn’t filed a claim previously because it wasn’t covered is free to do so with the VCF (on or before 1st October 2090). This applies to victims as well as representatives of deceased victims. 

8. Has the Zadroga Act been extended? When does the Zadroga act expire?

The deadline for filing claims related to the 9/11 attacks has been extended several times. The original VCF run from 2001 to 2004. After being signed into law on 2nd January 2011, the Zadroga Act extended the deadline for claims for another five years.  

On 18th December 2015, President Obama signed a bill reauthorizing the James Zadroga Act of 2010, extending the deadline for filing claims from 3rd October 2016 to 18th December 2020. The signing of the Permanent Authorization Act on 29th July 2019 by President Donald Trump has extended the Zadroga Act deadline to 1st October 2090.

9. I have submitted a Zadroga claim. What next?

The VCF takes all submitted claims into a review process to confirm they meet the requirements. Besides completing the claim form, the VCF requires documentation to support the form before the claim can proceed for review. The claim form should be accompanied by:

  1. A signature page or equivalent sections from the original VCF 2 form (Part IV)
  2. Original & signed Exhibit A (authorization for releasing medical information)
  3. WTC health program confirmation that an applicant has one or more conditions certified for treatment. 
  4. Proof of presence documentation as per VCF policies & procedures  document Section 1.6
  5. Social Security (Administration Consent) Form if you are claiming a financial loss.
  6. If applicable, you need original client authorization for the payment to be deposited to your lawyer’s bank account.
  7. Exhibit C if you are represented by a Zadroga Act attorney or law firm which doesn’t have Exhibit C on file already with the VCF. 
  8. If applicable, you need an original client authorization for depositing claim payment to your attorney’s bank a/c.
  9. ACH payment form for claimants who will receive claim payment via their bank a/c
  10. For deceased claims, you need Appendix A or Exhibit F for the old claim form. You also need an original/certified death certificate and letters of administration. 

10. What happens if there is a missing document after I file a VCF claim?

If you file a VCF claim and fail to submit a document, the VCF will send a missing information letter. Your claim will also be rendered inactive until you submit the required document/s. The claim can only be reactivated and reviewed if the required document is received and found sufficient. 

Requested documents that aren’t submitted in time (within 60 days after a missing information letter is sent) will result in a claim being denied. Denied claims can be amended after the required documents are acquired. The VCF reactivates claims for review, even if the requested documents are submitted after 60 days.

11. Can I appeal a Zadroga claim decision?

You can appeal if you want to challenge the VCF’s decision on your claim. If you want the VCF to make a new determination because of new information i.e., a new illness, you can amend your claim.

A decision must be made on an appeal before a compensation claim is paid. For eligibility appeals, compensation review is delayed until a decision is reached on your appeal. However, there is an exception. If there is an expedited status, a claim can be paid under appeal. 

In most cases, amendments don’t affect payment to be made on an original determination. Decisions to appeal or amend should be well thought out. If you believe the VCF’s determination used a low earning and you fail to appeal, you will have waived your right to a raise. 

Appeals must be filed on or before 30 days of receiving a decision letter. The appeal should be filed using the appeal form sent alongside the determination letter. If you fail to meet the appeal deadline, the VCF will start processing applicable payment. 

12. How long does it take to receive Zadroga act payments?

Zadroga act awards, compensation, or payouts are sent depending on several factors. If you don’t appeal a decision on the claim, payment is processed immediately after the 30-day appeal period. It can take 20 days for payment to be authorized by the VCF Special Master. Payment is processed by the Department of Justice & Treasury. This can take another three weeks. Ideally, payment should reach your bank a/c 2.5 months after you receive your award letter.

If you appeal, the VCF won’t start processing payment before an appeal decision is made. The payment processes commence after the VCF sends an appeal decision. It takes approximately 20 days for payment to be authorized by the Special Master after an appeal. The payment then takes the usual 3-week route to be processed by the treasury and DOJ. Payment should reach your bank a/c 1.5 months after you receive an appeal decision letter.

Important: The VCF doesn’t pro-rate payment. Claims are paid in full as per the calculated loss at the time of processing. 

13. Will payments made in the past from other sources be deducted from my VCF award?

Yes. If you have received related payment in the past from sources like the Veterans Affairs, such payments (related to your 9/11 attack injury or illness) are deducted. However, payments for conditions that aren’t eligible under the VCF aren’t deducted from your VCF award. 

14. Will I be reimbursed for past medical expenses?

Yes. Requests for reimbursement of past medical expenses incurred and related to 9/11 injuries or conditions can be considered. However, such requests can only be made after an initial award is issued. The expenses must also be above $5,000 for them to be considered. 

Important: Since reimbursement claims require new submissions and reviewing significant documentation to establish expenses were related to 9/11, such claims take time to process. Also. The Special Master can exercise discretion by wavering requirements based on individual circumstances. Individuals seeking waivers can call the VCF helpline.

15. Are mental conditions covered by the VCF? Will I receive compensation if I suffered a mental health condition because of the 9/11 attacks?

The WTC health program monitors and treats mental health ailments like PTSD and anxiety. However, it doesn’t consider such conditions among other mental-health ailments when compensating.  

16. Do I need to hire a Zadroga Act attorney?

You can pursue compensation on your own. However, it is important to seek legal help. As seen above, the procedure for filing VCF claims can be complex. You must meet stringent deadlines and support your claim with documentation. Given the changes that have taken place with the Zadroga act renewal, additional Zadroga act covered conditions, among other changes, filing claims can be a daunting task.  

What’s more, the VCF doesn’t always issue favorable awards. You need legal help to appeal successfully. A Zadroga act lawyer can help you secure the Zadroga act benefits you deserve, including recovering past out-of-pocket medical expenses related to 9/11 injuries or ailments. Given the finality of accepting an award and the complexity of the Zadroga 9 11 health bill, the importance of having a lawyer throughout the process can’t be overlooked. 

17. Is heart disease a Zadroga act covered condition?

Respiratory system ailments, which include ailments affecting organs like the heart, are covered. Coverage extends to ailments affecting the anterior mediastinum, posterior mediastinum, pleura, and overlapping lesion, according to the CDC

18. Is low testosterone covered under Zadroga act?

The WTC Health program covers malignant neoplasms of the penis and testis. Cancerous tumors or abnormal growth (malignant neoplasm) affecting the male reproductive organs can cause low testosterone levels. As a result, low testosterone can be covered under the Zadroga Act if it is linked to a 9/11 ailment. 

19. Is neuropathy added to Zadroga?

No. On 25th November 2016, the WTC health program was petitioned to add neuropathy as one of the WTC-related ailments. However, after reviewing scientific and medical information, including information from the petitioner, the program denied the petition to add neuropathy on 11th May 2017. The decision was made based on the fact that there was inadequate evidence linking the condition to WTC-related illnesses. 

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