9/11 Victim Compensation Fund: How much has been spent, how much is needed

By PoliticsFOXBusiness

Jon Stewart slams Congress over its delayed response to reinstating the 9/11 Victims Fund

Dr. Mikhail Varshavski on calls for Congress to reauthorize the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund to provide health care benefits to 9/11 first responders.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would ensure that victims of the Sept. 11 attacks would be compensated for any physical harm they or their family members suffered.

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The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was initially created in 2001 and ran through 2004. It was revived in 2011 and went into law in 2015, but only gives victims the opportunity to make claims until 2020. If the new bill passes through the House and Senate and is signed by the president, it would allow victims to make claims until 2089.

Here’s a look at how much has been spent so far on the fund and how much more may be necessary.

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During its first four years, the fund gave out $7 billion to the families of more than 2,880 people who died and to 2,680 people who were injured in the 9/11 attacks, according to testimony on Tuesday by the VCF’s Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya.

When it was reactivated in 2011, it expanded eligibility and allotted $2.775 billion. The fund was set to end in 2016, but in 2015, Congress and President Obama allowed for the bill to continue another five years, until 2020, with another $4.6 billion, Bhattacharyya said Tuesday.

That left the VCF with a total of $7.375 billion. As of May 31, more than $5.174 billion has been given out to 22,500 victims of the attacks.

However, more than 40,000 people have applied to the VCF, which covers illnesses potentially related to being at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the attacks. There are about 21,000 claims pending.

Bhattacharyya said fund officials estimate it would take another $5 billion to pay pending claims and the claims that officials anticipate will be submitted before the fund's December 2020 deadline.

"The plain fact is that we are expending the available funds more quickly than assumed, and there are many more claims than anticipated," Bhattacharyya said. A total of 835 awards have been reduced as of May 31, she added.

However, the number of claims continues to increase, particularly cancer claims, she said.

“In 2015, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that, should the VCF remain in operation through 2025, we would issue awards on a total of between 2,500 and 10,000 cancer claims. We have already found over 8,800 cancer claimants eligible, and already awarded compensation to 7,750 of these individuals,” Bhattacharyya said in her testimony.

The Justice Department said in February that the fund is being depleted and that benefit payments are being cut by up to 70 percent.

Though the current VCF only allows for victims to make claims until 2020, the new bill would allow victims to make claims until 2089. It would also allow claimants to be paid what was reduced from their initial amount and remove the cap on noneconomic damages in specific circumstances, according to a summary of the bill.

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The collapse of the World Trade Center in September 2001 sent a cloud of thick dust billowing over Lower Manhattan. Fires burned for weeks. Thousands of construction workers, police officers, firefighters and others spent time working in the soot, often without proper respiratory protection.

In the years since, many have seen their health decline, some with respiratory or digestive-system ailments that appeared almost immediately, others with illnesses that developed as they aged, including cancer.

Fox News’ Liam Quinn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.