The terrorist attacks that took place in the United States of America on September 11, 2001, led the date to become one of the most notably tragic days in US history.
On this day, thousands of innocent Americans lost their lives. From innocent civilians to first responders and volunteers, many families lost loved ones on 9/11 and many survivors would find themselves being diagnosed with lasting conditions in the years following.
It’s hard to imagine the dust, smoke, and falling debris following the attacks. Toxic, hazardous materials surrounded the people in the area who were simply trying to escape or help others. Initial health responders were focused on the lung conditions of those they encountered, but it took over a decade for the realization to hit that other long-term conditions were affecting survivors. Some of these chronic or terminal conditions people find themselves being diagnosed with are cardiovascular disease, hearing loss, lymphatic cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, and skin rashes.
According to the World Trade Center Health Program, which was created in January 2011, cancers diagnosed from exposure to the toxic materials can take years to develop. This means survivors and first responders may continue being diagnosed with related cancers for years to come.
In the wake of the tragedy, Congress created a fund to financially compensate these survivors and the families of those lost. Anyone who has been affected by the attack on 9/11 may be entitled to financial compensation if relevant criteria are met.
Between 2001 and 2004, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund distributed around $7 billion, helping more than 5,000 families. Originally, 98% of those who lost an identified loved one and more than 2,000 of those injured were compensated. Unfortunately, not everyone that was eligible to apply knew about the fund before the 2004 deadline. Additionally, a number of families were still grieving during the time of registration, which leads to a mere 60% of that eligible applying, surprising lawmakers.
In January 2011, President Barack Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. This law was created to support those who continued to struggle with related health complications related. This law not only re-established the VCF by allocating almost $3 billion to the fund but also led to the creation of the World Trade Center Health Program.
President Obama later passed the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act again, granting near-permanence to the World Trade Center Health Program and extending the VCF to December 2020 with close to a $5 billion allocation.
Since President Obama signed this into effect in 2015, the VCF has been extended by the Trump Administration. The Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act was signed in July 2019, with more than $10 billion currently allocated to the fund through October 1, 2090.